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Canfield Fair puts premium on safety

Dec 17, 2023Dec 17, 2023

Aug 29, 2023

CANFIELD — Months of work on safety planning and how best to handle emergencies precede the 177th Canfield Fair.

It’s been a group effort among the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Homeland Security, the Youngstown Police Bomb Squad and Task Force, Canfield police, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Cardinal Joint Fire District and fire departments from throughout the county.

“We’ve had roughly eight meetings on security (with many departments) and have a plan in place to make it the safest fair possible,” fair board President Bob Jarvis said.

According to Mahoning County Court Judge Scott Hunter, a fair director in charge of security, extensive training and coordination are employed by all police agencies during the fair.

This year things have been stepped up a bit.

“We are enhancing and increasing our uniformed police presence, not just to our fair police department but also with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office,” Hunter said. “We are increasing the technology available to law enforcement to enhance our police presence. All of these efforts are designed to offer the public attending this year’s fair the safest possible experience.”


Police at the fair reserve the right to look into what people bring in, Hunter said.

“There will not be metal detectors at the entrance gates to the fair. We do reserve the right to search bags, strollers, etc. Security at the grandstand events will be determined by the contract with the artist / event,” he said.

Hunter said fairgoers need to understand what is not allowed on the grounds. “Firearms or guns of any kind, knives, Tasers, laser pointers, facial coverings other than surgical or KN95 masks are not permitted on the fairgrounds. Still cameras and video cameras are not permitted in the grandstand area. Both our code of conduct and dress code policies will be strictly enforced,” he said.

As for the fair’s dress code, shirts and pants or their equivalent or skirts must be worn at all times. Clothing must cover undergarments. Hoods are prohibited along with any other headwear that prevents an individual’s face from being readily visible and not interfere with a line of sight of law enforcement, except for the wearing of a headdress for legitimate and validated religious reasons.

No obscene, indecent, violent or other messages or depictions of drugs, hate speech, profanity or prejudice, weapons or gang affiliation shall be viewable on any clothing or attire. No clothing accessories of any kind shall be allowed on the fairgrounds that could be dangerous or used as a weapon.

The intent of the dress code is to promote a safe and family-friendly environment. Anyone breaking the policy could be refused admittance onto the fairgrounds or could be removed.

The security policy was discussed in light of fights at last year’s Canfield Fair and apparent shots fired in the parking area.


Last year, a fracas among up to 100 people brought a large police presence to the fairgrounds Saturday night. Three adults and seven juveniles were detained; one of the boys had a gun, a report stated.

No one was injured in the melee, but reports showed two vehicles had bullet holes.

The first fight apparently started when two fair police officers observed four females fighting in front of The Beast ride near Milton Drive. The females resisted by not obeying officers’ commands and pulling away.

After the initial incident, a large group, estimated between 75 and 100, began forming and dispersing at various times, running away from officers, who tried to keep these groups from forming and creating chaos.

Another skirmish occurred near Coitsville and Bishop drives where other individuals joined in. While this incident was going on, fair police were alerted that shots were fired near Gate C. A Canfield city police officer pursued a male wearing a white hooded sweatshirt near one of the barns. During the chase, the officer noted that he spotted a handgun under a Jeep. After the boy, 15, was apprehended, the officer located the weapon, a 9mm handgun with no rounds found in the chamber or magazine.

He spent a term in the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center before being released.


Months of coordinated meetings before this week’s fair kickoff also covered fair traffic. For Canfield Police Chief Chuck Colucci, it is like being part of two worlds.

“We always have extra people on, but we never dip below the minimum just because the fair is here,” he said. “We do have extra patrols, but our businesses and residents can expect the same service as if the fair weren’t here.”

On traffic movement, he said Canfield officers try to move traffic out of the area as best they can. That includes planning for weather and possible floods.

“If there is flooding in an area, we will immediately redirect traffic the other way,” Colucci said. Last year saw one big soaker.

“The best part is we have so many professional agencies around the fair that make it easy to plan,” he said.

It also helps when all police agencies in the county are on the Austintown-Boardman 800 system. It means everyone can talk to each other, which comes in handy during emergencies.

While the Canfield police border the fairgrounds at the north and northwest corner, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office borders the balance of the fairgrounds. Chief Deputy Jeff Allen said the department operates similar to Canfield city police, and Canfield Township residents can expect normal coverage.

“What we do at the fair is totally separate from our Canfield Township patrols,” Allen said.


Included in the security and safety meetings is the Cardinal Joint Fire District, which handles emergency medical responses on the fairgrounds. Like the police, the fire district will maintain regular service to residents.

For Capt. Rob Tieche of the CJFD, it is like running two cities.

“Our people are there 24 hours a day from the Tuesday before the fair to the Tuesday after the fair,” he said. “Thursday through Monday we use other departments during the 12 peak hours.”

Tieche said his department took part in the months of planning with law enforcement. On top of that, the CJFD trains for all scenarios including mass casualty.

“University Hospitals from Portage County staffs the Red Cross Building with nurses and physicians,” Tieche said. “We also have the ability to land multiple helicopters at five landing areas around or near the fairgrounds.”

Inside the fairgrounds, the CJFD has another vital tool for getting around.

In 2004, the CJFD took over emergency medical service calls at the fairgrounds. Prior to that, ambulance companies operated on the grounds and had the task of maneuvering through the crowded midways, often at a snail’s pace.

CJFD engaged a new tool: the EMS golf cart equipped to handle a cot and medical supplies. It can move easily around crowds. If a patient needs to go to the hospital, the EMS golf carts would get them to a gate where they are transferred onto a waiting ambulance. CJFD has three such carts on the grounds.

“Full-sized ambulances used to take 10 minutes to reach someone at the fair,” he said. “With the EMS golf carts, our response time is now two to three minutes.”

Inside the grandstand, the CJFD has another service called EMS Quick-Response. These are paramedics who carry medical bags and can easily get to a person in the grandstands in distress.

“On average, we treat five to six (fairgoers) each year,” Tieche said. “In the past few years we have had to remove 10 and get them to awaiting ambulances.”

All the EMS and police groups work at the fair as a team.

“The Board of Directors of the Mahoning County Agricultural Society is fully committed to providing the public with the safest possible experience at the fair and during all events held on the fairgrounds,” Hunter said. “Our priority is the safety of our fair patrons, vendors and participants.”

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