BAZETTA - Visitors at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds were doing anything they could to beat the heat as the scorching heat wave that was gripping two thirds of the country continued.
''I'm guessing I'll go through two semis (trucks) full of ice this year,'' Mike Pacholec of Austintown, who works for Molnar's Concessions, said Friday.
Pacholec said he has serviced the fairgrounds for several years and normally goes through about one and half truckfuls. But not this year.
At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the temperature on the midway asphalt pavement measured 131 degrees. The official high on Friday was 96 degrees. Saturday was even hotter - 98 at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and 99 at the fairgrounds first aid station.
Warren Township fire Chief Ken Schick, who worked the first aid station at the fairgrounds Saturday, said, ''With the heat, it was very, very busy. We've had 18 (heat related cases) today. We got them cooled down and they went back out there. Two or three went home and two were transported to the hospital with nausea, vomitting and general weakness.
''People were walking around a lot of time getting overheated,'' Schick said. ''A lot of the time, they needed water. They weren't getting hydrated enough.''
The Trumbull County Fire Chiefs Association put up cooling stations on Saturday - water lines with garden hose nozzles kept on a fine mist for fairgoers to walk through and cool off.
''I think that really helped,'' Schick said. ''We've never had heat like this all week long.''
As Pacholec delivered bags of ice to the Dairy Barn on Friday to cool down a hot cow, Courtney Bevington of Burton and Devon Brezo of Parkman couldn't resist grabbing a couple pieces of the chunky refreshment, popping the ice in their mouths before tending to the animal.
''We've had to spray down the roofs of the poultry barn, the hog barn and the sale barn for the rabbits and cats,'' said Jan Solomon, a Fair Board member for 24 years. After firefighters broke out the hoses and soaked the shingles, temperatures lowered by about 20 degrees, she said.
Solomon was ordering up 40 bottles of water for overheated rabbits and 40 pounds of ice for the rodeo horses that were being trucked in for a Friday evening performance. She also found some shade for the horses and were prepared to bring in fans for the animals.
She said fair officials also were shutting down barn lights to lower the electricity used and to protect transformers at the fairgrounds that Solomon described as a ''little city'' during fair week.
The only air conditioning Solomon sees is in the fair and junior fair offices, and the cool air there is needed for computer equipment.
Meanwhile, Stacie Cashbaugh of Canfield was carting around freezer packs in a little sack, distributing the icy blocks to her daughters Marissa and Mariah along with her husband, Sonny.
''My mom used to do this all the time. And it works. You can put them behind your neck or on your arms,'' she said.
Lt. Pete Lucic with the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office said he was telling his security crew to drink water. ''I always checks in with the vendors and the guys running the rides too, just to make sure they don't need to cool off,'' Lucic said. No major problems were reported other than routine cases of parents losing track of their kids.
Herb Laukhart, director of finance and personnel at the Trumbull County Engineer's Office, took a slug of some pop while on break from manning his office's grandstand booth.
Wiping away the sweat Laukhart smiled: ''I've lived in northeast Ohio for 54 years, and I've learned to never complain about the heat.''
Firefighters manning the first aid booth - also under the grandstands - reported eight cases of medical problems with the record heat as of 4:30 p.m. Friday. And those cases were among the dozens of routine first aid calls ranging from bee stings to scratches that required a band-aid.
Two of the heat calls before Saturday required transports to a local hospital, including one about 2 p.m. Friday and one visitor earlier in the week who Schick said was also complaining of chest plains. The victims were mostly elderly and young.
Schick was in charge of firefighters at the fair who met earlier in the day for a briefing by Bazetta fire Chief Dennis Lewis, who has been using the fair as a training exercise.
Volunteers for surrounding fire departments, including the local air base, check in before the fair gates open and sign up at Bazetta's Fire Station No. 11 at the corner of Durst Clagg and Everett Hull roads.
He warned the paramedics, EMTs and firefighters to keep hydrated, reminding them that the only air conditioning was in a command center.
Each volunteer fills out a card that is slid into a series of sleeves in a canvas chart that is hung on the wall.
Officers in charge can quickly find who is on duty and which piece of equipment they are assigned to. It is the type of system firefighters use during major catastrophes or when many departments are called in to work together.
''We're just getting started with this. It's the type of T-card system they're using now to keep track of thousands of firefighters at the forest fires out west,'' said assistant Howland fire Chief Tim Thomas.