By Frank Lewis
Fifty years ago, Eugene Gahm staged a demolition derby to benefit the Lucasville Swim Club, and he never looked back. Fifty years later he is still seen driving around in his golf cart up and down the mid-way at the Scioto County Fair, a place where he spends as much time outside of fair season as he does during the area’s favorite week.
“My dad told me when I was growing up, everyone was wanting me to be this or that. He said, ‘son, let me tell you one thing. You don’t have time for all that,’” Gahm said. “‘So just pick out one thing and do a good job.’ and that’s how I got it done. I still work on it (fairgrounds) today and I’m 75 years old. I work on it about every day that goes by. It’s a job, but we have a whole lot of good help. Don’t blow my whistle. But I’m over the caretaker of the grounds and I’ve got to have it looking good. I look at the fairgrounds just like it was mine.”
Gahm remembers how his involvement with the Scioto County Fair began those 50 years ago.
“I did the demolition derby, a fundraiser, and Dr. (Walter) Cline and Bill Burns wanted me to be on the fair board,” Gahm said. “So that’s how I got on. I owe it all to Dr. Cline and Bill Burns.”
While many things have changed over the years, Gahm said some things have remained the same.
“Kline’s Attractions have been coming here every year,” Gahm said. “I got hooked up with George Moffett. Tanya Tucker was just a little girl. I talked the fair board into letting me book her and when I got home he called me back and said he couldn’t book her, so they substituted Billy Walker. Billy was our first booked act. Fom then on I went with Kline’s Attractions. And this is their 50th year with us.”
Gahm said he first worked with radio legend Zeke Mullins in promoting the acts coming to the Scioto County Fair.
“I told him what I was wanting to do and he said, ‘well, if you can get the board to go along with the entertainment, I can get the people there,’” Gahm said. “And that’s just exactly how it worked. I picked the entertainers and Zeke would get the people here.”
Gahm was told by other members of the board that country music would not draw. After the packed house the night of the Billy Walker concert, they were sold on that theme as well and it hasn’t changed over the years.
As the years have passed newer buildings and other structures have been added to the fairgrounds to keep it state-of-the art.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that everything that is done over there is paid for by money that is generated from our fair,” Gahm said. “Right now you don’t have the attendance you had back in the 60s and 70s when you had the Urban Cowboys and all that stuff. There’s too many things going on today that takes away from the fair.”
Gahm said the way the Scioto County Fair counts its attendance is by ticket sales which differs from the Ohio State Fair where every person who goes through the gates is counted.
“If we say there were 6,000 people, that is what paid,” Gahm said. “But we’ve got a lot more than that because you’ve got free schools, free rest home residents, 4-hers, news media, all that is free. So you have a lot more attendance than is actually put in the paper.”
Gahm looks at the beautiful metal bleachers and remembers when they weren’t that nice at all.
“When I was a young man, down below the bleachers were all that old green painted wood and there was a basement in it,” Gahm said. “Underneath that’s where they bet (on horse rases). Later on we used it for storage.”
Sure, things have changed over the years but Eugene Gahm is still proud of his years of involvement and especially when it comes to the young people participating in 4-H.
“They are what it’s all about,” Gahm said as he pulled out in his golf cart. “It’s all about the hard work they do all year long to raise that animal.”
One thing is evident when you are around Eugene Gahm. He is in his element at the Scioto County Fair. He has been associated with it for 50 years and one gets the idea it is still his passion and will continue to be in the years ahead.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.