First drive-thru chicken barbecue to support the Tusc County Fairgrounds

First drive-thru chicken barbecue to support the Tusc County Fairgrounds
Teri Stein

The monster truck show at the 2019 Tuscarawas County Fair was a sellout with many spectators traveling from outside of the county to see it.


With the COVID-19 crisis cancelling events, the Tuscarawas County Fair board will host a chicken barbecue on May 16 to help cover expenses as income from event rentals has decreased.

Black Sheep BBQ, which specializes in chicken, will cook for the event. Preorders may be placed with Dave Miller through May 15 by calling 330-340-2720.

The event will be held as a drive-thru from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Participants will pay at one station and then drive to the next to pick up their order. The cost is $7 per half or $25 for a family pack of four halves. Any orders not picked up by 1 p.m. will be sold. There will be a limited amount of extra chicken available for sale too.

“So far we’ve lost five events already this year just in the spring,” said Scott Grove, president of the Tuscarawas County Agricultural Society board.

Among events cancelled were a draft horse sale and the Neil Wise Memorial, Jr. Steer & Heifer Show.

“The farmers’ market is not going to be able to do anything. There were some home and garden shows that we had scheduled. I think they are trying to push those back, but you can only push those back so far, and then it’s just not going to be feasible for everybody,” Grove said.

The pandemic has put a damper on rentals, not only for the grounds, but also for the Clover Café, which is rented for parties.

“We are trying to figure out everything as we go day by day,” Grove said. “We are coming into the season for the graduation parties that we normally have. Unless things change here really quickly, those parties are probably not going to be able to happen.”

Many people do not realize the costs involved with maintaining the fairgrounds and putting on the yearly fair.

“The first four months of the year, it costs us to keep the doors open, probably $60,000 with payroll, insurances, taxes and utilities,” Grove said. “The minimum cost I’ve seen so far — because we are really trying to cut back on what we are spending — is about $6,000 a month in just utilities and payroll.”

The fair board members are volunteers, but they employ a groundskeeper and secretarial help.

Utilities are a year-round expense. “Utilities are a huge issue for us,” Grove said. “Then when we don’t have events going on, we are eating up all the money we were holding onto to try to get the fair started.”

Grove said start-up costs to hold the fair are about $100,000 to just open the gates. “With everything going on, it’s going to be a tough year for us,” he said.

The fair board members are uncertain if the fair will be able to be held as usual. Being one of the last fairs of the season will hopefully help them figure it out.

“We’ve discussed a lot of different options that we are still looking into, maybe an online sale or just strictly a sale for the kids only,” Grove said. “We are just not sure what all is out there. We are looking into everything and trying to see what other fairs are doing and how they are going to approach everything. Everything is up in the air right now.”

Many 4-H members have already started their animal projects for the year. “They are putting a lot of effort and time into everything. We are really hoping we can get through all of this,” Grove said. “We are just going to have to see where we are going to be in the next few months.”

Improvements were made last year in the electrical system, and the board is still hoping to do more by applying for some grants. They also put in a new wash rack, thanks to the Reeves Foundation and many other supporters.

“Everybody’s put forth a lot of effort into this new wash rack, and everything is for the kids,” Grove said. “It’s just great that the community comes together like this for these kids and puts in a lot of time and volunteer work. It makes you proud to be from this county.”

There is still some work to be completed including running the water lines and finishing the electrical work for lighting. “With the income being very low, we are trying to watch what we do and not bite off too much but still keep up with the things we can,” Grove said.

If the barbecue goes well, Grove said they would consider having one per month. Other fundraisers may be considered too.

Grove said the chicken barbecue will be a good chance for people to get out and visit the fairgrounds, where many good memories have been made over the years, even if they won’t have to get out of their cars.

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