Our Towns

Canfield Fair Board Seeks $4.5M for Bigger Center

CANFIELD, Ohio – Hogs and some other animals will have to double up for the Junior Fair during this year’s Canfield Fair, Bob Jarvis said Wednesday. Last year, the fair had to raise tents to accommodate the many goats.

“I’m starting to be sorry that I don’t even have enough room for the hogs,” said Jarvis, who sits on the Canfield Fair Board of Directors and is co-chairman of the Junior Fair committee. “We’re going to be OK but we’re out [of room.] We’re at max capacity with our chicken and our rabbits.”

The board of directors formally kicked off a fundraising campaign yesterday that’s aimed at alleviating the shortage of space for the growing Junior Fair.

The board, at a news conference held in the Mahoning County Fairgrounds’ administration building, said it will seek to raise $4.5 million for a new multipurpose exposition center. The effort will include construction, slated to begin at the end of this year’s fair, of a 45,000-square-foot center and up to nine ancillary buildings of 6,000 square feet for livestock.

“We found that the Junior Fair really outgrew its house. It’s really expanded,” said Andy Frost, president of the board.

To accommodate the additional space the show building/event center and its ancillary buildings will need, the Junior Fair area will relocate to the southern end of the fairgrounds, where the antique tractors, small steam engines, the petting barn and open class animals have been exhibited, said David Dickey, chairman of the board’s long-range planning committee. Those exhibits will relocate to the former Junior Fair area, he said.

The goal of $4.5 million, to be raised over the next eight months, includes $500,000 that would go to infrastructure improvements. The remaining $4 million would be dedicated to constructing about 100,000 square feet of buildings.

The coliseum the Junior Fair uses measures 90 by 100 feet, while the event center will be 150 by 300 feet with two 40-foot lean-tos on the sides, about three to four times the size of the coliseum, he said.

“This board is very risk-averse,” said Matthew Hughes of Fair Funding LLC, Cincinnati, which the board engaged to manage the fundraising campaign. “It’s hard to put a brand in jeopardy” by not asking for money during a quiet phase, then trying to raise $4.5 million, or $900,000 in pledges annually to be paid over five years, he said

Before launching the campaign, Hughes’ firm conducted a leadership assessment, meeting with 35 people in the community from various backgrounds, fairgoers and nonfairgoers alike, he said. The responses “gave the board relative assurance that the community was passionate about the Canfield Fair,” he reported.

Features of the heated, under-roof event center will include a balcony, catering kitchen, learning center and Junior Fair market livestock office, all of which will have naming rights opportunities attached to them, $100,000 each pledged over five years.

Naming rights will also be available for the main event center, projected to cost $1.15 million.

“In the fundraising industry, if somebody gives half the cost of construction of that building, they can have their name on that building in perpetuity,’ Hughes said.

Junior Fair participants and their parents, who were informed last week, are enthusiastic about the new center, Jarvis said. “I’ve had parents walk up with their checkbooks ready to write checks,” he said.

“The kids are so excited. They’re ecstatic,” he added.

The campaign, which began quietly about two weeks ago, has already raised $600,000, including $400,000 from the fair board as well as contributions from members of the board.

“It is critically important that the community know that the fair board, who’s risk adverse, is extremely serious about this project,” Hughes said. “We don’t take it lightly. We don’t take these gifts lightly.”

Although 80% of any campaign is paid for by 20% of the donors, “if that’s all we got, we’d be 20% short of our goal,” he remarked.

People can donate and get additional information on the capital campaign website. Honorary chairmen of the campaign should be announced in the coming weeks, Hughes said.

“We all want to knock this out of the park together and we can only do that with the community’s help,” he said.

Speakers also stressed that the building will be available for use year-round.

“This is a pre-engineered steel building that will function every day of the year,” Hughes said. He also said that since the community is helping to pay for the building that rental rates could be kept at reasonable levels.

The event center will be something the community can use throughout the year except during the week of the fair, Dickey affirmed, calling “a good place” to host rib cook-offs, car shows and home-and-garden shows.

Pictured: Rendering of new building.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.