CANFIELD - The Republican National Convention closed Thursday night and the Democratic convention is around the corner. Those political Super Bowls take place in crowded sports arenas and civic centers.
In Mahoning County, stars, stripes and election banners adorn tents nestled in between hot sausage stands and lemon shake vendors as another convention of sorts is under way.
"The fair is usually the kickoff for the candidates,'' Mahoning County Board of Elections Director Joyce Kale-Pesta.
2011 Mahoning County 4-H Queen Melissa Moliterno, 19, of Canfield, center, crowns 2012 Mahoning County 4-H Queen Michele Awad, 19, left, as 2012 King Sam Barnhouse, 18, of Berlin Center, watches Thursday at the Canfield Fair. Photo by R. Michael Semple
Republican Chairwoman Donna Bricker said the fair is an ideal place for the political parties to set up shop and sell their wares and their agenda to thousands.
"People from 17 states come to the Fair, and we see 500 to a 1,000 people in our tent every day," she said.
Kale-Pesta said her tent also sees thousands of people over the six-day duration of the fair. Both women said the traffic is good at their tents every year but presidential election cycles always bring more excitement and more people.
Bricker, who has worked the tent for the past 28 years, said people come in to buy merchandise, register to vote and even offer to volunteer some of their time at the fair to help the cause. She said 120 volunteers are signed up but they accept any help anyone might offer.
"It helps energize the the party because we are a minority party in Mahoning County," Bricker said.
But Bricker said the fair's rural and agricultural tradition tends to bring conservative-minded people and that helps to bolster the tent and the local party.
"These are grass-roots people, a lot of farmers, and people with conservative values," she said. "We have a long-standing tradition."
Kale-Pesta said it is true that the fair seems to be hot-spot for the Republicans.
"This is Canfield, and Canfield has traditionally voted Republican, so this is a good place for them to energize their base," she said.
Still, Kale-Pesta said her tent usually registers upward of 1,000 Democratic voters on the weekend days.
With the Republican Convention taking place this week, both women said fair-goers have certainly been more politically minded.
"People will come in and say, 'Did you hear this one speak?' or 'Did you hear what that one said?,' and they'll want to discuss the convention."
Bricker said many people have come in to talk about their party's speakers with great excitement.
"After Ann Romney gave her speech, we had something like 200 women in here and they all wanted Ann Romney T-shirts, and we only had so many," she said.
The political rivalry may hold up among the base voters, but between the tent workers, it's all good natured, both women agreed. Bricker said they're good friends who get their hair done at the same salon in Poland.
And while Kale-Pesta said some younger Republicans come into her tent and want to argue politics, she merely finds it good that they're passionate about government.
"Some of my best friends are Republicans. It's just politics. You can't go making enemies over politics," she said.