A bright warm day in July greeted Madison County Fairgoers for opening day on Sunday.
At noon, a short ceremony was held at the new flag poles on the grounds to recognize the hard work put into improving the grounds for future generations.
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” said Quinton Keeran, director of the fair’s public relations committee. “It’s a great day to be in Madison County. I think the progress is obvious, the amount of progress around us on the fairgrounds and around the community over the last few years. That’s all due to a community that’s pulled together and done some really great things.”
Darrell Champer, president of the board of directors, highlighted the work done by the office of county Engineer Bryan Dhume to improve the grounds.
“Last year I was here at this ceremony discussing an upcoming horse stall, drainage project and as of today I’m happy to report that project has been completed,” said Dhume. “We have 59 new horse stalls over in the horse barn, 12 new catch basins, 1,200 feet of new drainage pipe and over 750 tons of hot-mix asphalt that’s been installed here.”
It was funded through a grant from the Ohio Agricultural Society, worth $50,000 and supplies bought by the Madison County Commissioners.
“I wanted to the thank the work of the county commissioners, to get grants, build partnerships and help improve the fairgrounds, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this,” said Champer. “Most of us who grew up in Madison County showed here; it was the same for a long time. It’s exciting to see things grow. It’s exciting to see things change.”
He added the improvements would impact future generations and keep kids getting involved with the fair, which he said is one of the most important things about the annual event.
Commissioner David Dhume concurred.
“We live in difficult times, we know there’s a lot of bad elements out there in the world,” he said. “I want to thank the parents, taking their time teaching the children these skills. Thank you for getting them up in the morning and getting them out into the barn and telling them it’s their job to do it. Teach them this responsibility. I honestly believe these help deter the elements out there and help make the kids make better choices and better decisions.”
The engineer was awarded a plaque by the fair board and quickly dedicated it to his staff, which he said made all of the improvements happen.
Dave Monnin of the senior fair board highlighted the new flag pole, which was funded by Paul Gross, former county commissioner and local entrepreneur who runs the Bluebird Retirement Community near London and Eric Rife from seed company Beck’s Hybrids.
“I know Bluebird wanted to put these flag poles up really in honor of the special people we get to work with every single day,” said Gross. “We have some of our fine veterans here today.”
Gross invited four veterans to the ceremony, Bill Miller, Dale Vance, Harold Snell and Loretta Wymer.
Wymer was special intelligence officer during World War II, where she met pilot Max Wymer. Her husband served as Madison County auditor for over 20 years.
Snell, served in the Second World War’s South Pacific Theater as a Marine, where he received a purple heart.
Vance is a World War II Marine Corps veteran too, who began his service guarding President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the presidential retreat at Camp David, often when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would visit. He also received a Purple Heart.
Miller served in the Ohio National Guard from 1947 to 1951.
“There have been a lot of thank you’s today which have all been very justified. I too want to thank the veterans for their service,” said Commissioner Dhume. “I think it’s very important we thank people…everybody involved.”
Ohio Auditor of State David Yost, State Senator Bob Hackett and Joe Bengoechea, a staffer from Congressman Steve Stiver’s office presented proclamations, recognizing the fair’s extensive history.
“This is the 128th time Madison County has come together for this, across all walks of life,” said Yost. “I’m so proud of what goes on here…what progress.”
With the improvements and high enthusiasm, Keeran said this was poised to be a great fair.
“I was talking to a radio person in Washington Court House, a good contact of mine. He made a comment that stuck out in my mind,” he said. “He said in all his 25 years of radio, he has never been treated so kind and with so much respect by the children, by the staff and by the community as he has from the Madison County Fair. Thank you all for being here, let’s have a great one.”
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.