County cracks down on welfare fraud

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Such were the sounds of the 1997 Balloon A-Fair Grand Parade, a walking cross-section of Portage County that brought throngs of residents to Main Street Saturday morning.

From the county's far reaches came llamas and alpacas, Model T's and Model A's, politicians, marching bands and cheerleading squads _ all participants in a pageant that flowed from the city's east end through its downtown Saturday morning.

"Man, this baby's a long parade!" said Mike Dolin, a resident of Ravenna Township. "I mean, holy mackerel, I figured this thing would be over by now." But it kept going and going."

This year's Balloon A-Fair enters its final act today. Sun Beau's gates open at 9 a.m. for the festival's car show, which begins one hour later. Ritch Underwood and A Monopoly will entertain beginning at noon and will be followed by the car judging at 3 p.m. and entertainer Thomas James at 4 p.m. A balloon launch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Poor weather kept the balloons grounded both Friday and Saturday.

Twenty-three balloons would have flown from Sun Beau Valley in the late afternoon had weather permitted. But the flags on top of the cheese dog stand snapped taut in the wind _ a sure sign that, though the sun was overhead, the balloons would remain aground.

"It's just too windy for them," said Mike Rowan, a member of the chase team for Chet and Doug Davis, pilots from Brimfield. "I just sent up a helium balloon, and when it got tree height, it just went 'Zoom!' Can you imagine a seven-story balloon going that fast?"

The open field from where the envelopes would have launched at Sun Beau was empty, excepting a single balloon filled for display. Tethered to a 1-ton pickup truck, the Cameron Balloon swayed in the wind, as though keeping time with the distant trees.

"I remember last year they took off that way," said Stow resident Yvonne Brown, pointing northwest. "I was running back and forth trying to get pictures. It was beautiful. Who knows? Maybe we'll have better luck tomorrow."

"I wish they could plan this thing (the balloon launches) around the weather," Dolin said during the parade, when skies were deep gray and dropping rain at random. "In four years, I haven't seen a balloon go up. I've seen them in the sky and I've heard my dog barking at them. But I've never seen them launch."

The parade finished at about 10:30 a.m. Its east-west procession gave way to less orderly traffic as people began browsing the arts, crafts, game and food booths that lined Main Street.

The Crestwood Lions tried to keep up with the appetites fair-goers.

While the Lions may sell 50 hot-dogs and fewer hamburgers, they will use 300 pounds of Idaho potatoes in the trafficking of french fries.

"We're famous for our fries," Mesaros said. "People get their money's worth on our fries 'cause we give a bunc."

In a matter of minutes, patrons could get a bunch of fries, a glaucoma test, a funnel cake, a steer horn, a hanging plant and a porcelain swan. They could also play "Frog Bog," where the contestant springs a polymer frog toward a moving lilly pad by striking a catapult with a mallet.

Somewhere around Farnsworth Antiques, the music of Sunny and the Shades blended with the softer sounds of the Ravenna Community Choir a few blocks east.

Saturday's activities were to conclude with a fireworks display.

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