Lorain County Fair board works to fix smoking, theft, pass abuses

By Kelsey Leyva - kleyva@civitasmedia.com

Rampant smoking and thefts from vendors are among the problems the Lorain County Fair board is trying to stamp out before next August.

In an Oct. 13 meeting, fair board members said smokers were easy to find this year, especially in the grandstand, and problems arose when some were asked to stop.

Board president Kim Meyers asked for ideas on how to better enforce the fair board’s no-tobacco policy, and whether ushers were designated to watch for smokers.

“I don’t think our ushers get paid enough to get yelled at,” board member Ron Pickworth said.

Fellow member Nikki Claubaugh agreed and said the directors should try to handle it and get assistance from a sheriff’s deputy if attendees refuse to cooperate.

Meyers sees the ushers as the first line of defense in getting fairgoers to abide by the rules and doesn’t see how their pay makes a difference.

Another suggestion was to print “No smoking” on tickets to help reinforce the rule.

The item was tabled for lack of a consensus.

Security proved a heavy topic as the board discussed numerous theft complaints by vendors. One went so far as to pay a worker to spend the night sleeping in a booth to prevent break-ins.

Claubaugh said she was on the grounds every night at around 11:45 p.m. and knows the gates were locked at midnight. “Most of the kids we saw were 4-H kids,” she said.

Pickworth said it’s impossible to track and police everyone on the fairgrounds at night. “Once they’re in there they go everywhere,” he said.

That item, too, was tabled.

Stopping lunch pass abuse, closing membership pass loopholes, and handling late entries were also on the agenda.

Meyers said for more than 30 years the board of directors has allowed workers from businesses within walking distance to sign up to enter the grounds for lunch and leave immediately after. “It was on an honor basis,” he said.

But it became apparent at the 2015 fair that people were taking advantage of the lunch lists. Directors noticed that some on the list were entering in for free and staying much longer than just lunch.

Board member Fred Pitts said he didn’t see any way the board could regulate the lists and immediately made a motion to do away with them.

It passed unanimously.

Membership pass purchases will also change. Only two will be allowed per household.

The passes are sold to county residents ages 21 and older. Each provides seven entries to the fair and confers membership to the Lorain County Agricultural Society.

According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, membership passes should only be sold to the person becoming a member. That means five or six such passes shouldn’t be sold to one person.

“It really got out of hand when an advisor of a club came up here and bought 11 memberships with club money to give to the families in their club,” said board secretary Charisse Nikel. “She didn’t even know some of the names she was putting them in or the addresses.”

She wouldn’t mind if someone bought a membership for their spouse and thinks that was the intent of the leniency.

Claubaugh was opposed to limiting the number to two because she typically buys one for herself and her parents.

The policy for late entries will also change.

This year, the situation got out of control with many entrants emailing information without filling out the proper forms, Nikel said.

“It takes about three days to catch up with all the online entries,” she said “I start writing reports about three days later, so ideally I would still like to be able to run the reports three days later.”

After some discussion, it was agreed late livestock entries would be accepted no more than two business days after the deadline at an additional $25 per entry. That means if a person wanted to enter their horse or cow into more than one class, they’d have to pay extra for each one.

Late entries must also be received by fax or in-person drop off. If a mailed entry is received in the office within the two business day limit, Nikel said she would also process those requests if the person was willing to pay the fee.

Some directors thought the additional $25 per entry was somewhat harsh, but the overall consensus was the new rule is meant to deter people from filing late in the first place.

Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.

By Kelsey Leyva