LIMA ‚?? The Allen County Fairgrounds looks a lot different than it did a week ago.
Last Friday, there were farm animals and fair rides occupying the fairgrounds. This weekend brought vacuum cleaners, fishing poles, dog cages, jack-o-lanterns, garden hoses, apparel, knives and all kinds of odds and ends set out on tables for people to browse.
This, of course, is Max‚??s Flea Market and Water Dog Races. Friday marked its first day at the fairgrounds and attracted hundreds from the area with all of its unique vendors and items.
The event has been around since 2009 and is in its fourth year, according to the event organizer, Max McCluer. And the only thing McCluer is worried about for this weekend is the heat.
‚??Last year, it really did affect us. When we woke up, there were already 95-degree temperatures,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Mother nature does affect us. If it rains, at this point the rain won‚??t hurt us.‚?Ě
The main means of transportation? Golf carts. Everyone uses them to ride from vendor to vendor, exploring their little piece of the flea market, bargaining, moseying about and most importantly ‚?? relaxing.
The flea market usually elicits 840 individual families and contains 2,000 lots, McCluer said. He said this year the event has vendors coming from 28 states plus Canada.
And while the flea market brings out Allen County‚??s quirkiness, the main event that some anticipate year-round are the water dog races.
‚??About every other person brings a lap dog, a coon dog, a hound dog if they want to sell or trade,‚?Ě McCluer said. ‚??The racing dogs come from about 25 different states that come in to race.‚?Ě
The dog races began Friday at 6 p.m. with six heats and lasted throughout the night. Today, they will begin at 5 p.m. with another six heats and Sunday will bring the last six heats and the final race at 11 a.m., where a final winner is announced.
The stakes are high with cash prizes for every winner. In fact, McCluer said that‚??s the reason why his water dog races attract dogs from Mississippi, New York and Minnesota.
Coon dog R.D. is no stranger to Max‚??s Water Dog Races. The 8-year-old white and brown spotted hound sat in the shade Friday before he would perform today and Sunday. Owner Kenny Slone, of Marysville, has had R.D. since he was a puppy and has trained him to win.
And he has won. In 2009 and 2011, R.D. won dog races at Max‚??s Water Dog Races. In 2009, he won the final races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In 2011, he won second in the Sunday grand finale race, Slone said. Slone said he‚??s been racing dogs since he was young, at least for 15 years.
‚??He‚??s as smart as they come,‚?Ě Slone said. ‚??A couple miles a day, I still exercise him.‚?Ě
Slone said he has a dog walker that walks and jogs with R.D. to keep him in shape for racing. He said they‚??ve traveled nationwide to water dog races. It‚??s R.D.‚??s last time at Max‚??s Water Dog Races, Slone said, as he‚??s going to retire him before next year.
‚??He‚??s getting old on me,‚?Ě Slone said, looking down at the dog. ‚??He‚??s still fast though. He‚??s got a lot of race left him in.‚?Ě
The event also features minnow races, which will be 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. today. An old time minstrels group will be touring the grounds and singing today and a chain saw artist will begin demos at 11 a.m. A treeing contest will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. todayand a golf cart parade contest will be today at 5 p.m. A horseshoe contest will also begin at 6 p.m. today.
There will be country karaoke at the Grandstand Park in the evening and of course, the infamous dog races.