Last updated: August 24. 2013 7:17AM - 215 Views

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LIMA — The experts keep saying that a tough economy presents opportunities for growth. If Max McCluer didn’t believe that before this weekend, he should now.

When McCluer heard this spring that the Kenton Coon Dog Trials were canceled this year after more than 50 consecutive years, he put out feelers for a similar event in Allen County.

Max’s Water Dog Races, Swap Meet and Flea Market was set to start Saturday at the Allen County Fairgrounds, but had to open Friday night because Coon Dog Trial regulars were used to that.

“People were coming in and were used to going in on Friday,” he said. “We opened up the gates [Friday] and, man, we had a crowd come through. The vendors were happy, they were making good sales.

“This morning we had people waiting in line and we probably have 900 vendors here. They’ve got 18 heats of dog races.”

He counted about 3,000 cars in the parking lots Saturday afternoon and estimated a crowd of about 7,000.

He originally planned a little event on his own property, but the demand for something to fill the void left by the coon dog trials was strong.

“I had to keep expanding and expanding. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught,” he said.

He said there are about 100 people employed for the three-day event.

Douglas Higgs, of Wooster, used to race dogs at Kenton. He likes the changes at Lima, including the starting box for the dogs in the water races.

He’d been busy with the races all day, but planned to do some shopping later.

“Looks like they got a lot of vendors up there,” he said. “I think after the races me and the wife are going to go up there and look around on trader’s row.”

Jerry and Terri Colley, of Columbus Grove, were sitting on the bank of Roschman Park Pond with their 7-year-old son, Gabriel, watching the dogs chase a racoon in a cage to the finish line.

“Is the coon alive?” Gabriel asked.

“I haven’t seen it move,” his mother replied.

Jerry Colley had been going to the Kenton trials since he was a child. He was happy with the new venue.

We like it,” he said. “It’s closer to home, it’s laid out nice, plenty of room to walk around. I hope he keeps it going here.”

“Everybody loves this Allen County Fairground,” McCluer said.

He expects to bring the races and flea market back.

“If I don’t do it next year, they’ll probably hang me,” he said.

Crowds follow dogs to Lima

Crowds follow dogs to Lima

Crowds follow dogs to Lima
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