Officials, Fairgoers Spread Message of Community at Canfield Fair

CANFIELD, Ohio — Al Matasy has been coming to the Canfield Fair for the last 63 years. So missing 2020 because of the pandemic was tough, he said.

“I thought it was a disappointment, but these things happen and you’ve got to make the best of it,” said the 66-year-old Boardman resident. “I’m glad we’re here for the 175th Canfield Fair. It’s an honor for the community to come together.”

Matasy was on-hand for Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, welcoming residents back to the Canfield Fairgrounds for the 175th Canfield Fair. His sentiment of the community coming together was echoed by elected officials who helped kick off the festivities.

During the ceremony, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson lauded the 175th year for the fair, which he said is as American as “motherhood and Molnar’s cinnamon rolls.” As Ohio’s second largest fair and the largest county fair in the state, the Canfield Fair “competes off and on with a county in Germany” for the largest county fair in the world, he said.

“It’s great to see the community come together,” Johnson said. “People put their differences aside and get behind our young people as they learn about agriculture and they experience our values that make our nation truly a great nation.”

In honor of the fair’s anniversary, the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station treated those gathered to a flyover of one of its planes.

“I want to thank you for your support of our mission, but more importantly for your continued support of your airmen. We really appreciate it,” said Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, commander of the 910th. “On behalf of those 1,500 airmen, we send best wishes for many, many more years of this fair.”

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Gallery images include photos of the grandstand and fairgoers, as well as Bob Barko Jr. standing with his print commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Canfield Fair.

Local and state elected officials also honored the milestone with proclamations, including those from the offices of the Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R, and the Mahoning County Commissioners.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti predicted record crowds this year.

“The food smells good, so I’m going off my diet,” Traficanti quipped.

Traficanti joined fellow commissioners Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler in presenting Canfield Fair Board President Ward Campbell with a proclamation celebrating 175 years of the fair, which shares its 175th birthday with the county, Traficanti said.

“A lot may have changed in 175 years, but there’s one thing has been constant,” Traficanti said. “The dedication of families, our children, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles coming here for all of those years. This is definitely a mecca. People get to meet [and] enjoy their time.”

Campbell and the other members of the fair board will also presented with a print commemorating the 175th anniversary by local artist Bob Barko Jr., owner of Steel Town Studios, Youngstown.

The piece is packed full of memorable Canfield Fair landmarks that Barko drew from photographs he had been taking since 2014, he said. Such iconic images as the big Canfield Fair sign, the Republic Steel ingot, the Grandstand with the rooster on top and the Culligan Water “magic faucet” are all portrayed in the print.

“Just some things you see for years at the fairgrounds,” Barko said. “Every single street on the fairgrounds is in the print. They go in alphabetical order and work their way around.”

Across the bottom of the print are all the townships stenciled in to match the flags at the Grandstand, he noted.

In March, Barko participated in the Flock to the Fairground public art project to commemorate the fair’s anniversary. The design of his submission, which was sponsored by “Joe” Dickey Electric, is basically the same as his print, he said.

“This is essentially the artwork that is on my rooster,” Barko said. “But as that emulates all things Youngstown, this shows you everything Canfield Fair.”

Pictured at top: Al Matasy, Boardman, says he’s happy to be back at the Canfield Fair after it was canceled in 2020.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.