First of its kind sausage-eating contest held in Boardman

by: Stan Boney

The objective: how many links someone can eat in 15 minutes.

Dan Reash arrived at the mall Monday afternoon ready to take part.

“Prepared myself a little bit, kind of gorged over the weekend. Empty stomach today, so we’ll see. My goal is to hit double digits,” Reash said.

Reash works for iSynergy, a Canfield digital marketing firm which — along with five other companies — was part of the YOlympics, sponsored by HD Davis CPA’s. Events included disc golf, bocce, archery and cornhole.

Four of the five companies in the YOlympics were represented — all by men. The lone female was Mychael- Ann DeFrank.

“I came out of the spa and walked into this and got persuaded and said, ‘Let’s have some fun,’” DeFrank said.

Bill Roesti of Tri-County Tower took the early lead, eating eight links in the first nine minutes. There was no roll, no condiments, just the link. But when Roesti was offered more, he emphatically declined.

“No, no. No, no. No,” Roesti said.

Dan Reash decided to stand, and C.J. Hilbert of HD Davis looked to be making a late run, albeit with his head down in either total concentration or total agony. In the end, Dan Reash was the winner with eight and a half links. Bill Roesti’s eight was second, and C.J. Hilbert was third with seven and quarter.

“You know, I wished I could have trained my jaw a little bit more. I think that’s what held me back of getting that goal of double digits. My stomach feels all right, but about seven sausages in, my jaw was just fatigued and that’s what slowed me down a little bit,” Hilbert said.

“I hit six mileage and it just hit. Everything just sat at the bottom of the stomach. I was getting the meat sweats,” Hilbert said.

“Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll eat sausage again for a while,” DeFrank said.

For winning, Dan Reash won points for his team — iSynergy — in its quest to win the YOlympics. It’s all to benefit the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation, to help find a cure for pediatric brain tumors.


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the_business_journalCANFIELD, Ohio – What does the Canfield Fair mean to DiRusso’s Sausage Inc.?


by: Guy D’Astolfo

“It’s huge,” says Dante DiRusso, concessions and marketing manager for the Youngstown-based company. “It’s our biggest event. It accounts for a big portion of our sales throughout the summer.

DiRusso’s manufactures sausage, meatballs and a few other meat products at its plant for retail stores. But a big portion of its sales comes from running its own concession stands at fairs and other events. It also sells its products to other concessionaires.

Those who attend the Canfield Fair have a huge appetite for sausage sandwiches. The fair looms largest on the DiRusso’s calendar. The company has six or seven stands at the six-day event every year.

“We call it The Big Show,” DiRusso says. But it’s not the only one. The company sets up sausage stands at many festivals and events each year from April through October in northern Ohio. Their cancellations last year took a bite out DiRusso’s sales.

“It put a big dent in us,” DiRusso says.

The company was able to recoup some of the revenue from smaller projects, such as putting up stands in parking lots and fair food drive-thru events during the height of the pandemic.

DiRusso’s retail footprint is larger than its concession sales. Its frozen sausages and meatballs can be found in stores ranging from Buffalo and Pittsburgh to Columbus and into Indiana.

“We go pretty far for a smaller operation,” DiRusso says.

While its retail sales now overshadow concession sales, DiRusso’s got its start selling its product at fairs and they remain part of the company’s core.

“They are a blast,” DiRusso says. “We have fun but it’s a lot of hard work. We’ve been going through a lack of employees like everyone else. And it’s long hours and it’s hot. You are basically in a restaurant kitchen that is outdoors. But it’s a ton of fun.”

DiRusso himself says he will be manning one of the concession stands for the duration of the Canfield Fair.

“I have friends who are doctors and nurses who come and help every year because it’s so fun,” he says.

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Vendors and visitors will spend more than $6 million during fair week — outside of the fair.

by: Amanda Smith

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Over 600 vendors will be set up for the Canfield Fair and the economic activity they will bring won’t be limited to Canfield.

The 173rd Canfield Fair starts next week, but vendors and fair employees are already hard at work getting everything ready to go.

Dante DiRusso knows what it takes to get ready for the fair.

“A lot of sweat, a lot of hard work and as many people as you can get involved,” he said.

Vendors started setting up Thursday and will continue to roll in for the next few days.

The DiRusso family will be operating seven sausage trailers.

“We have supplies stocked all throughout the fair in a couple properties that are close by,” DiRusso said. “We start working on getting things ready months ahead of time, planning out who’s going to be where, getting our schedules together.”

For the DiRussos, selling at the fair is a fine science. They study each trailer’s sales and figure out how much of each product is needed, and all of their supplies have to be bought in advance — most of them locally.

Vendors and visitors will spend more than $6 million during fair week outside of the fair, including for lodging, transportation, food and drink and shopping.

“It’s economic development for the whole community,” said George Roman, III, a member of the Canfield Fair Board. “It’s not just the fairgrounds, it’s all of Mahoning County and that includes Columbiana County, Trumbull County, Ashtabula County and western Pennsylvania.”

The vendors know they’ll make good money, too, but they’re going to have to work for it.

“All day, all night. This is definitely the highlight of our year,” DiRusso said.

The first day of the Canfield Fair is Wednesday.

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21 WFMJ Canfield Fair For many, the Canfield Fair is a time to get together with family and create new memories. One Youngstown family has made it their annual tradition over the last four decades to have their picture taken there.

by: Leslie Barrett

What started as one photo button has now turned into 46 — capturing treasured moments of their lives.

Every family has their Canfield Fair favorites.

For the Ray family, DiRusso’s Sausage is on the list but their annual family photo takes the cake.

“It’s a great tradition that we have. We look forward to it every year,” said Julieann Ray Cheng.

The family has had a photo button made at the fair for 46 years and they have only missed one year.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said the father, Mike Ray.

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WKBN 27 First News The Canfield Fair opens in one week and every vendor knows it’s a hot ticket for food sales.

by: Alexis Walters

Thursday was the day for vendors to pick up their paperwork and the line was long. Some lined up an hour ahead of time. There are 500 vendors this year.

Lemonade, funnel cakes, and stromboli are just a few of the offerings along with businesses from around the area. You can find it all at the Canfield Fair.

“I would say 90 percent have been here 10, 20, 30, even 50 years. Most of our attendees know where their favorite concessionaire is,” said Fair Director George Roman.

Some vendors, like DiRusso’s Sausage, have been coming for 53 years.

“My uncle started a concession business in the 60s – Auggie DiRusso and Canfield was one of the first spots he worked,” said Robert DiRusso.

Vendors do have to pay a fee to set up at the fair, but the business they will do during that one week keeps them coming back.

“Even if we get one job it pays for the event so it is definitely worth it.

It’s not just the sales during the week; it’s the marketing that lasts year round.

“I mean the Canfield Fair itself is pretty much our biggest marketing event of the year,” DiRusso said.

Roman said getting ready for the fair is like building a city of 600,000 people in six days and there are some challenges, but it all comes out fine in the end.

“You have your issues but where are you going to go to meet this many people in this short period of time,” Roman said.

The fair begins Wednesday, August 29 and runs through Labor Day (Sept. 3). Ticket information and show dates and times can be found at

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Big plans are underway for the Canfield Fair.

by: WKBN Staff

It was media day on Tuesday, and board members were anxious to announce what’s in store. 

The big news right now is a deal with a new amusement ride company. 

The Canfield Fair is bringing in Florida-based Reithhoffer Shows.

Board President Dave Dickey said everyone will be surprised when they come to the fair this year. 

“Nobody’s seen these rides in Ohio. We are very excited about them. They are Cedar Point-quality rides, so it’s going to be very exciting,” Dickey said.

For 30 years, the fair has gotten rides from the Bates family, who retired after last year.

Also on tap this year are the shows you’d expect, like the demolition derby, tractor pull and exhibits. 

And of course, Toby Keith is the headliner in the grandstand. Already 6,000 tickets have been sold for the show. 

For more information and a schedule of events, go to

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the_business_journalYOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – DiRusso’s Sausage Inc., a longtime company in the Riverbend Business Park, is expanding its building here to increase its storage capacity and improve operating efficiency.


“It’s been in the planning for awhile,” said Robert DiRusso, president. “We’re more than halfway done, so it should be finished by mid-April before the grilling and fair season starts.”

DiRusso’s is adding another 2,900 square feet to its manufacturing plant on West Rayen Avenue. The expansion will accommodate dry storage and packaging products and connect directly to the manufacturing area.

“It will improve our operational efficiencies,” he said. “We’ve probably needed this for the last five years.”

Adolph Johnson & Son Co., Mineral Ridge, is the general contractor and the project is the fourth expansion the builder has done for DiRusso’s, said Paul Johnson, president of Adolph Johnson.

“The first expansion was in 2004,” he noted. “The company has since grown steadily and they have nice controlled growth.”

The $250,000 expansion is the latest in investments the company has made over the past dozen years, DiRusso said. Recently, DiRusso’s added a new grinding and mixing system to its manufacturing operations.

And, three years ago, the company bought the property across the street where a dilapidated garage stood. “It was a real eyesore,” DiRusso said. Since then, the company has spent more than $60,000 in renovating the old garage and turning it into a storage site, while spending additional money to reclaim the land.

“It’s worked out pretty well,” DiRusso said. “Between the two projects, we’ve probably spent $500,000 over the last two years.”

DiRusso, one of the founders of the Riverbend Business Park Association, said his cleanup effort is one aspect of a concerted drive that began 10 years ago of businesses reclaiming the entire Riverbend district. “The only eyesore in the park that’s left is the Cavanaugh Co. Building, and we’re trying to get the city to demo it,” DiRusso said.

Copyright 2016 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio

the_business_journalYOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — On occasion, Robert DiRusso enjoys working the long hours at his company’s trailers at fairs and festivals, if only to remember how his business began.


“That’s how I started out,” says the president of DiRusso’s Sausage Inc. in Youngstown. “I still like getting out on the midway once in a while so I can get out of the office.”

The business has come a long way from its origins as an Italian sausage concessions vendor. Since it was established in the early 1960s, DiRusso’s has grown into a manufacturer of Italian-seasoned meats that are distributed throughout the region.

Indeed, the family recipe for Italian sausage was created in his grandparents’ old grocery store in Lowellville, DiRusso says. There his grandmother took her special seasoning and made Italian sausage for customers. Then, in 1963, DiRusso’s uncle Augie seized the idea of buying several cooking trailers and taking the family’s sausage on the road – selling the specialty food at the many fairs and festivals throughout the Mahoning Valley.

It was a hit.

As demand grew, so did the need to expand and increase production, DiRusso says. In 1985, DiRusso’s Sausage moved to its home along West Rayen Avenue in the Riverbend district of Youngstown.

“We had to build a production plant to facilitate the trailers,” says Amanda Sciola, sales and marketing manager. “Then, we moved to Youngstown and started supplying restaurants, caterers and eventually retailers.”

The company has steadily increased its footprint throughout the region over the last five years. “For years, we sold within a three-hour [drive] radius and barely touched Columbus,” Sciola says. Now, DiRusso’s sausage can be found in grocery stores and restaurants in Cincinnati, Dayton, western Pennsylvania and southwestern New York.

“We manufacture about 20,000 pounds per day,” running three to four days a week, says Michael Testa, production manager at DiRusso’s. The majority of the product is pork used in the company’s sausage patties and links, but DiRusso’s also manufactures meatballs and turkey sausage links.

Testa, with the company 22 years, relates the company used to process the meat, grinding it by hand and using other labor-intensive methods. “

DiRusso’s production plant is about as modern and automated a building you’ll find for such a small, family-owned business, Testa adds.

“We’re constantly improving our equipment. All of our mixers and grinders are new,” he says. “Our three-set grinder is about two years old, and the mixer system is maybe a year old.”

DiRusso’s buys its pork from two farms in Illinois and Iowa, while the turkey comes from North Carolina, Testa says.

Operations on this day are processing pork sausage links and patties, and the meat is trucked in from a farm to DiRusso’s, where it is immediately placed in a holding cooler at 32 degrees.

Each batch to be processed contains 2,000 pounds of pork, Testa explains. The freshly butchered meat slides into a large three-step grinder – so named because it uses three different knives – that safely removes bone and other particles from the meat. Once this process is finished, the company’s special seasoning blend is added in a large mixer.

“All of the seasoning is now pre-mixed,” Testa says. “We used to do it all by hand, but today we have two companies that do it for us.”

Once the proper seasoning and ingredients are added, the product is transferred to a “stuffer,” a piece of equipment that turns the ground sausage into long coils that are fed into a linker. The linker is programmed to apportion the meat to a specified weight and length, processing either large or small-link sausage. Each link is then transported along a conveyer belt, where it moves to packaging. The sausages are placed into boxes, each package weighing five pounds.

“The whole process takes about 30 minutes,” Testa says. Once the product is packaged and placed on a pallet, the pallet is moved into a blast freezer where the temperature is 20 degrees below zero. “The sooner we freeze the product, the more shelf life we get out of it,” he says.

After 24 hours, the pallets are removed from the blast freezer and placed into a holding freezer at zero degrees until they are shipped to customers, Testa says.

Despite the production efficiencies, the market for the company’s products remains tough, DiRusso says. “Last year was historically high pricewise for our raw materials – pork, beef and turkey,” he says. “We made it through the year without raising our prices too much.”

The prices of pork and turkey have since come down, DiRusso says. Beef prices remain relatively high. “It’s a much better outlook this year than last year.”

Equally important, the company continues to reinvest in its local manufacturing operations to maintain quality and competitiveness.

“We’re highly regulated by the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] as are some of our major customers and we have the same requirements as $1 billion companies,” DiRusso says. “We compete against big companies such as Bob Evans, and we’ve held our own very well with Italian sausage.”

Although the company has long graduated from its concessions business, the odds are you’ll find a DiRusso’s trailer at all of the major festivals in the region.

“I’m working the Trumbull County Fair this year,” DiRusso says. “It’s not a growth part of our business, but it’s still part of our business.”

Pictured: DiRusso’s Sausage President Robert DiRusso says his grandmother created the recipe at the family’s grocery store in Lowellville in the early 1960s. 

Copyright 2016 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.