Crawford County Fair resumes after pandemic hiatus

On the way into the Crawford County Fair, it becomes evident who the regulars are as opposed to the newcomers. After a trip down a makeshift one way road and guidance from a high schooler with a neon glow stick in the parking lot, you will find yourself parked next to anything from a Chrysler 300 to a Ford F-150 in an increasingly muddy parking lot.

Unlike most years where the fair occurs before move-in, this year’s fair occurred just as students were returning to campus.

With a barn full of rabbits for sale to the right and the town-favorite dime toss game to the left, it might immediately be tempting to make a dent in the stack of cash brought for the evening. But with fried foods galore, a wise fair attendee will be patient and save a few dime tosses for when they are leaving.

“My favorite games are winning a goldfish by tossing ping pong balls into the fish bowls and the dime toss,” Meadville native Bethany Fields said. “My husband and I have played both most every year and always come home with a new fish or many mismatched cups from the dime toss!”

The dime toss is a game in which participants pay one dollar for 10 dimes and then get a chance to throw their dimes from behind the stand into various cups, mugs and shot glasses to win them.

While mugs for a dollar and funnel cake alone could make the trip worth it, there are many other attractions and for lots of people the county fair is a part of their childhood.

“My first ever concert I went to was at the fair when I was probably nine or 10 years old,” Fields said. “I went with my sister and mom and we saw the band Point of Grace. I also remember going to the fair in high school with my friends — typically we went for the food and social aspect.”

After growing up in Meadville, Fields made a short move north five years ago to Cambridge Township with her husband. She continues to annually visit the fair that gave her many fond childhood memories.

“I enjoy the Demolition Derby and this year I saw the Drag Race,” Fields said. “It’s really fun to root for your fellow community members in competition.”

Whether an attendee came for the derby or the drag race, there was extra time to visit the shops and tables this year with rides being ousted from the lineup due to the pandemic.

Beneath the towering bleachers there are shops and tables that one may just glance at while passing by if the weather is nice, or stop and stay awhile if there happens to be a flash rainstorm, as there was last Saturday, Aug. 28.

Inside a small shop under the bleachers are racks full of fired ceramic molds in need of painting along with their creator, Patrick Brown.

When asked how long he had been working this gig, Brown provided a simple response: “Years.”

Brown has turned ceramic arts into what he calls a “full-time hobby” rather than a job, a premise the fair sees no shortage of.

Just yards away from Brown’s shop is a tent with all sorts of military-grade tactical bags and outerwear.

The tent is run by Tony and Nam Masone, two avid hikers and campers.

“You’ve got to learn how to survive outdoors,” Mr. Masone said. “The skills that it takes to survive outdoors are something everyone should have. Buy stuff and get the f*** outside.”

Some may come to the fair to buy a tactical vest and bag in preparation for their next adventure, but for others the adventure is the fair itself.

“We watched one of our family friends’ two kids show their steers that they raised all year,” Fields said.

“They both won champion of their class and the older one, Lyla, won reserve champion of all the classes. Their family camps at the fair for the whole week each year and has built a community around their fellow fair-goers.”

The fair is the talk of the town and gives the community a sense of tradition.

“There are tons of families in the area for which the fair is a yearly family tradition,” Fields said. “It’s always been a fun social event that everyone in the area talks about. During fair week, everyone has some general topic of conversation to share and it’s a fun community feeling to always have a common conversation starter and it’s great that people of all ages can share in the event.”