One of America’s favorite summer pastimes is going to the county fair, according to Solon resident Joanne Farinacci.
“Fairs are about American agriculture and part of American history,” she said. “Families that bring their produce and their animals flock to the county fair with pride. One of my favorite parts besides the animals is the crafts the women bring in, the quilts and baked goods. Their work takes tremendous dedication.”
Her own memories of attending the Canfield Fair while growing up in New Middletown, near Youngstown, abound. “We’d get up at 6 and have a quick breakfast,” she said. “Mom worked at the church tent. My brother and I spent the whole day at the fair. Businesses in town would have signs that they were closed for the fair. After the fair ended on Labor Day, farmers and participants would pack up Tuesday to go home, so school would not start until Wednesday.”
The fair, presented by the Mahoning County Agricultural and Horticultural Society, celebrated its 162nd year last summer, from Aug. 27 through Labor Day, Sept. 1.
When their three daughters, Natalie, Emily and Leslie, were growing up, Mrs. Farinacci continued the tradition of attending the Canfield Fair.
“I like being at the fair,” said Mrs. Farinacci, who moved to Solon with her husband, Dr. John Farinacci, 24 years ago. “It’s just fun. Every time the fair ended, we’d be blue it was over. You had to wait another year to go to the fair.”
That was until Mrs. Farinacci designed and produced a board game that recreates much of the fun and entertainment a county fair provides. After two years of working on design and production, she sold her first 100 copies of the County Fair Game at the Great Geauga County Fair in Burton last summer. The game is now being sold at Borders Books in Solon and Mentor and Hershberger Housewares, an Amish department store in Middlefield, as well as by mail order.
With $85 of play money, players place their markers in the parking lot, enter the ticket gate and roll the die. Like the real fair attendees, they have multiple choices of what to do next. Should they buy cotton candy, shop for a tractor or try to win a best-of-show ribbon for harness racing at the grandstand? Should they take a photo at the top of the Ferris wheel or win a badge for joining the fall choir or finding their lost brother?
Players might find themselves spinning for a ribbon at Education Hall, collecting an award for bringing the best honey or playing nickel toss or balloon darts for a stuffed animal on the midway.
All the fair food is there, from corn dogs and candy apples to barbecue ribs and lemon shakes. So are the attractions, with the rooster barn, pigs, goats, 4-H coliseum and vegetable building. Participants can milk a cow, win a white ribbon for their elderberry jelly, take a swinging ship ride and go to the grandstand for a concert.
The board game, recommended for two to four players ages 8 and up, takes from 45 minutes to an hour to play, said Mrs. Farinacci, a former editorial assistant and reporter for Life Magazine who also contributed to Time and Fortune magazines.
“Everything that is at most fairs is on the board,” she said. Stacks of face-down cards with possible points or new directions add to the excitement. The suggested strategy for players is to spend their money as quickly as they can and earn as many badges, ribbons, stuffed animals and other awards as possible. The less money and more awards a player has, the better chance to win when the points are added and money subtracted from the score.
The game isn’t about winning or losing or making profits, Mrs. Farinacci said.
It was a labor of love, she said. When her youngest daughter, Leslie, graduated from high school and left for college in Florida, where she’s now a sophomore, Mrs. Farinacci decided to create the game. She developed the prototype in 2006 and took it to the Canfield Fair board of trustees for their opinion.
“Natalie was my test player,” Mrs. Farinacci said of her oldest daughter, a graduate of the University of Akron and violinist with the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra. “We still play. She’s 24, and, when we finish a game, we still say, ‘Let’s play again.'”
Mrs. Farinacci said it was important to her that the game was made in America. “I wanted to oversee the quality, and I’m a believer in keeping production in this country.” In addition, she said, “The county fair is a beautiful part of Americana.”
Delano Service Inc., located in Allegan, Mich., printed and assembled the game after Mrs. Farinacci worked with an artist from Kalamazoo, Mich.
“We went to press July 29, 2008,” she said. “I watched our game being printed all day on a Heidelberg press.” The first shipment arrived Aug. 25, she said. “I didn’t know it would arrive in time for any fairs.” In a quick call to the Geauga County Fair, Mrs. Farinacci discovered there had been a cancellation for a booth and took it.
Mrs. Farinacci, who is marketing the game under the name J. Bell-Jones LLC, mentions two people by name in the game. One is her friend Zetta DeVoe, of Los Angeles, who supported her in the project. The other is the Rev. Nicholas Shori, the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in New Middletown, who asks the children in his parish to find him at the fair each year. One of the cards grants the “special Zetta award” for hand-knit holiday stockings, and one of the squares tells the player to “find Father Shori at the blacksmith shop.”
Mrs. Farinacci said she’s still deciding on whether to present the game at one of the toy fairs such as the New York Toy Fair in February. She said she will be notifying state and county fairs around the country about the availability of the game for possible distribution at next summer’s fairs.