By DOUG GRAVES
LEBANON, Ohio — Forty-four individuals and one group have been recognized for their support of fairs in Ohio over the years, during the 94th Ohio Fair Managers Assoc.’s annual convention.
One of those individuals, a longtime Warren County farmer and Standardbred enthusiast, stands out. Mel Hagemeyer received a special citation and was inducted into the Ohio Fairs Class of 2019 Hall of Fame for his support to Ohio fairs, the harness racing industry, and his community.
The Hagemeyer family has contributed to the fair community in Warren County for more than 60 years. Mel’s father, Maynard, retired from that fair board after 42 years of service and Hagemeyer himself has been on the board since 2002.
Hagemeyer worked at Lebanon Raceway for 45 years, serving as program director, mutual clerk, paddock judge, director of operations, and general manager. The half-mile oval of Lebanon Raceway was situated in the heart of the Warren County Fairgrounds at the time.
“His was a 24 hour-a-day, seven days a week job,” said Lou Carlo, then the mutual manager at Lebanon Raceway. “Mel is the greatest, and without his tireless work the track would have closed years ago.”
For the past five years, Hagemeyer was one of the driving forces behind getting video terminals legalized at Ohio’s horse track. Those electronic slot machines at the tracks provide revenue that literally saved the racing industry in the state.
Juggling tasks involving the racing on the fairgrounds and the fair itself kept him working many 80-hour weeks. “This became a way of life,” he said. “At times the days were long and grueling but I enjoyed what I did. It became a passion.”
Hagemeyer not only was overseer of the fair’s racing program but was the fair’s Open Class superintendent of antique tractors, competitive arts, baked goods, and horticulture.
Like so many others, he grew up in an agricultural family. As a 4-H member he was on the junior fair board.
“I was a hog man,” he said, “and back in the good ol’ days I would park in a pickup truck with a cover next to the brick maintenance building for a week during the fair.”
Hagemeyer was on the Warren County Fair Board for the past 16 years. “I believe if you belong to an organization, you go all in or don’t go in at all.”
Speaking of organizations, he is a member of the Optimists, Shriners, Masonic Lodge, and Scottish Rites Lodge. Next year marks his 50th year with the Masons. He is a past president and current member of the Ohio Valley Standardbred Assoc., the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Assoc., and the United States Trotting Assoc.
Hagemeyer is also a past director for Harness Tracks of America. He is actively involved in the multi-generational operation of Hagemeyer Farms in Clarksville, Ohio.
Of the other 43 honorees, eight received the Director’s Award for Innovation and Excellence for their progressive ideas and actions to improve and strengthen their fairs.
That group included Susan VanBuskirk Denbow (Ashland County Fair), Ken Jewell (Franklin), Mike McCalla (Gallia), Joe Slansky (Lake), Gary Zehring (Greene), David Landefeld (Monroe), Eleanor Risser (Putnam), and the Community Minded Fair Supporters Committee at the Huron County Fair.
Other honorees are: Mark Wickerham (Adams County Fair), Max McCluer (Allen), Bill Ruffing (Attica Independent), Roger Perkins (Belmont), Dr. John Agle (Clark), Janice Schoellman (Clermont), Michael A. Conny (Columbiana), Joe Wells (Coshocton), Travis Koschnick (Crawford), Andrew Brenner (Delaware);
Dr. Robert Schwartz (Fayette), Cornell Robertson (Franklin), Artie Pritt (Geauga), Kristy Cook (Hamilton), Jim Bidwell (Hardin), Nelson Birney (Harrison), Phil and Marian Parsons (Henry), Pat Baldinger (Marion), Jeff Otterbacher (Medina), John Rowley III (Miami), Carlos Dille (Morgan), Michelle Antonini (Perry);
Darrell Buckley (Preble), Jason Snyder (Richland), Dan Riddle (Ross), Robert Rainey (Seneca), Donna Huddleston (Stark), Roger Bourgeois (Summit), David Lynn (Trumbull), Vivian Wolf (Wayne), and Dr. Lisa Alverto, Patricia Schaffner, and Francis Schaffner (Shelby).