WILMINGTON — While the 2020 Clinton County Fair will be different than previous years, one lifelong local resident won’t be missing it.
Fred Summers, 82, has gone to the fair ever since he was a baby and his parents took him a little wagon.
The retired middle school principal and high school football/basketball coach grew up close to the fairgrounds on Locust Street. So, being able to go to the fairgrounds was easy.
“I liked going to the fair because of the atmosphere, the people, seeing all the shows and things like that,” said Summers.
During his first visit at four-months-old, Summers got to share the stage with famed county musician Red Foley and his daughter, who was also four-months-old.
Ever since then, Summers hasn’t missed a single fair — except for one in 1985 when he visited Europe.
He naturally has plenty of fond memories. One of those was in the late 1940s when he saw a horse named April Star run. Summers recalled the horse being regarded as one of the best racing horses in the state at the time.
“Back then you had to pay to get in the grandstand,” Summers recalls. “It was very busy and crowded. A friend of (my mother and I) named Tobe Davis lifted me up and put me on his shoulders. It was great.”
Obviously, this year is going to be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Summers plans on making an appearance.
The Fair Board has implemented safety measures to ensure locals can enjoy the fair in a safe way.
Among the basic guidelines for fair-goers to keep in mind — whether it’s in the grandstand or livestock barn bleachers or a lawn chair setup or on the midway — are that there shouldn’t be more than 10 people in a clustered grouping, and then those groups themselves should be separated by at least six feet.
Face coverings will be optional at the fair, and no one is being mandated to wear a face mask, said Fair Board President Scot Gerber. Face coverings will be available for fair volunteers and employees, but attendees need to bring their own if they want to wear one.
Additional hand-sanitizing stations will be placed near high traffic areas, including concessions. Restroom doors will not be closed to allow for touchless entry and exit (privacy however remains intact from outside view).
A private company, Caribou Sanitation, will arrive after-hours every night to perform a fine-mist fog sanitizing of high-touch surfaces such as grandstand seating, chairs, and bleachers.
Despite these precautions, Summers still plans to keep his record intact.
“I’ll walk around a little bit to make an appearance,” he said. “I won’t be there very long, and I’ll have a mask on.”
The fair begins on Saturday.
The News Journal asked our readers on Facebook to share their earliest and/or fondest memory of the fair. Responses include:
• Mary Lou Sprowle — “In the early 1940s, my dad holding me on the horse, on the merry-go-round … probably 1942. I felt as though I was flying, but with Daddy holding me in place I was safe! Fast forward to the summer of 1957, standing beside the merry-go-round watching as my husband, David, was holding our 6-month-old baby boy, Steve, in place on a horse. Yes, I cried ! The fair in the 1940s was always wonderful!”
• Kim Knauff — “I took sheep as my 4-H projects for many years there. But my favorite memory is during one of the horse pulls. My grandpa sponsored one of the trophies and he let me present it to the winner. I was probably around 10 or 11.”
• Tami Wainscott —“My first personalized sterling silver ring came from the Clinton County Fair my Dad bought me in 1974 when I was 5 years old; still wear it to this day.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574