The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


August 5, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Memories of fair are fair game

We’re only one day away from what has been a tradition for more than a century — the Ashtabula County Fair.

The fair, which begins Tuesday at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds in Jefferson, was a big deal to yours truly while growing up as a kid in Jefferson.

In the first couple of years I was here after moving from Middletown, Pa., I spent a good bit of time in search of a way to do one thing — sneak into the fair.

It didn’t take long before I discovered by method — go to the north end of the fairgrounds behind the fence next to the 4H Building and lean a big log, stick, or if I was extremely fortunate to find such a thing, a big piece of wood, against the fence and monkey-bar my way up the piece of wood, climb over the barbed wire and jump inside the fence.

Fortunately, the statute of limitations has run on that crime... or, at least I hope so!

Even more fortunately, I was able to land a job that not only gained me free entry into the fair, but also some pocket money.

The mother of my pal, Dean Neenan, had a connection and she got my a gig selling harness racing programs.

I would do that every day, from morning until night, and oh, how it paid!

OK, the monetary compensation wasn’t that great — I earned a nickel for every program I sold at a quarter apiece — but getting into the fair was too much to pass up.

Although the limitless opportunities to see all the pretty girls dressed in their summer attire was, admittedly, a much bigger drawing card.

By the end of fair week, I would earn about 20 bucks.

Which I would then go and pretty much blow in about 15 minutes, either in the arcade or at the free-throw shooting booth.

(On a side note, are the games that line the midway still pretty much all rigged so that you can’t win?)

I held that job for two or three years, at least until I turned 16, got my driver’s license and the fair became less and less the cool thing to do for a kid living in Jefferson.

Nowadays, I cannot even remember the last time I went to the fair, it’s been that long.

But as the 2013 rendition prepares to kick off in one more day, I have fond memories of the many times I spent there, the few sneaking in to gain free entry, but more so those I spent walking up and down and up and down and up and down the midway and asking everyone I saw, “Would you like to buy a harness racing program.”

To a kid, it was like hitting a trifecta.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. He no longer goes to the fair, but reach him at

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