LIMA — The streets are crowded with traffic, both motorized and pedestrian, as people move from shop to shop browsing or looking for that hard-to-find item. After working up an appetite, shoppers stop by local eateries to get a hamburger or indulge in dessert.
While this may evoke images of a bustling urban downtown, the sound of dogs howling and diving into the water reveal that this scene is from Max’s Trader Days and Water Dog Races, which officially kicked off Friday and will conclude today at the Allen County Fairgrounds. Now in its ninth year, the event brings more than 30,000 people to the fairgrounds from as many as 28 states as well as Canada to the sprawling flea market and water dog trials, creating a mini metropolis where the county fair was one week before.
“I would say that 80 percent of the people here are over 50 miles from home,” organizer Max McCluer said. “There are people here from Maryland or from Tennessee, and they drive 10 to 15 hours to get here.”
Even with the fairgrounds taking up 140 acres, McCluer uses as much as possible to get all 1,000 vendors packed in, each offering everything from books and music to hardware to firearms and crossbows.
“The Allen County Fairgrounds is a great place,” he said. “We’ve got restaurant row and 600 motel rooms, and they fill them all up.”
The water dog races cover several heats throughout the day and even into the late evening bringing more than 100 dogs to the fairgrounds to prove their worth in the pond. Each of the owners are vying for a piece of the purse, to which $10,000 was added this year.
“We have brought all the big, expensive dogs in here, and we are now one of the largest dog shows in the United States,” McCluer said.
Marty Wooden and Donna Rook, of Union City, Michigan, brought their wares to the flea market for the first time this year, selling blankets, pillows and other sewn items. So far, the event has left a very good impression for Wooden.
“We’re going to be back next year, no doubt about that,” he said. “This is a beautiful facility. We’ve talked to other vendors and we’ve heard nothing but good about this event.”
The water dog race finals will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, concluding at about 3 p.m. Admission for the day is $10 with children younger than 12 free.