The Farm Chronicles: County Fair Royalty

This time each year was the Randolph Fair. This is the culmination of the 4-H year—where everyone brings their 4-H projects for display and judging. It is a menagerie of sheep, goats, rabbits, horses, cows, food, vegetables, sewing—whatever is farm related—mixed in with many events, rides and games. It is the celebration of farming before harvest. Each year, I would take my horse to the fair. I looked forward to camping there and all the activities. In horse 4-H, Portage County had over 300 horses at the time. 4-H Horse Clubs were judged on how clean and tidy they kept their stables, the individual projects, and it all culminated in a grand horse show on the last day of the fair. 1973 was my 10th year.

Sue Baer, a friend and 4-H advisor, had spent a good deal of the winter trying to convince me to stay in 4-H one more year, but to join her club. She wanted to elevate her club with someone who was well known and could mentor some of the younger kids. She also felt she could guide me as I prepared for my future. I was getting ready for college and really just wanted to be done with 4-H and move on. But Sue made a compelling case that I should leave my Wandering Riders club and join her Western Raiders. I have to admit that one of my untold reasons for joining the Western Raiders was a young lady named Chris Bennett. She was the apple of my eye from the time I first saw her in the Southeast High School library. We became good friends. While generally pretty flamboyant, I was too shy with Chris to get out of the friend zone.

Well, Sue had a whole lot of projects planned for me. I know now that she was interested in my overall development as a person, but I really didn’t want anything to do with the Ohio State 4-H speakers competition she signed me up for with classmate Carol Gibson (we did win). I didn’t want anything to do with some of Sue’s riding clinics (felt I was beyond that). And as sure as I was alive, I didn’t want anything to do with entering the Randolph Fair King competition. She didn’t tell me that she entered me. She sprang it on me a few hours before going on stage to be judged. Sue also nominated Chris unbeknownst to her either. So here we are stuck in this situation and threatening not to go through with it. We were so against doing anything we felt forced to do. Reluctantly, out of respect, we acquiesced shortly before showtime.

We had to individually go up on the “stage,” which was a flatbed semitruck trailer they put in the horse arena, and answer beauty pageant-type questions. I remember the judges asked Chris if she would consider driving in the demolition derby. She answered, “Every day I drive is a demolition derby.” We won. As county fair royalty, we got to go on all the rides free. We were interviewed on the local radio station. We had to attend a banquet as guests of honor. All of which we were pretty irreverent, but polite. Years later, we would be queen and king of our own household. Proverbs 5:18 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.” I guess Sue Baer knew what she was doing after all.

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Bill Wilson

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