Fair families were honored with a memorial paver in the front entrance to the Ravalli County Fairgrounds last week.
“We just wanted to do something special for the fair families,” said Melissa Saville, Ravalli County Fairgrounds manager.
She told those in attendance: “We wanted to present these memorial pavers to show how much your family means to not only the fair but to agriculture. We give you a life time membership to the front gates and show our appreciation.”
All but one past and current fair family, or their representative, attended along with the fair board. The 2017 fair family Bob and JoanLee Nicholson were represented by Scott and Marie Nicholson. Also, attending were 2011 Cliff and Jane Trexler, 2015 Jay and Colleen Meyer, 2018 Carl and Mary Koenen and Gary and Carol Leese, 2016 Darrel and Carolyn Sperry, 2019 Dan and Debbie Severson, 2012 Dwain and Lillian Rennaker (paver held by Saville), 2014 Rollie and Nilda Lewis and 2013 Elmer and Gayle Tintzman.
The farm families were called “a great group of people” and “world’s finest right there” by the crowd.
Families selected an empty hole and pushed the paver with their name into it.
Gayle Tintzman said she appreciated the honor.
“This is wonderful. You know how I feel about the fair — it has been in my life, all my life,” she said. “My dad was county commissioner for 26 years so I probably came here when I was knee high to a grasshopper.
Rollie Lewis said he appreciates the extra effort.
“It is an honor for Nilda,” he said. “She did all the work at the fair. I did some helping kids in 4-H.”
Elmer Tintzman and Nilda Lewis also have plaques in their honor by flowering crabapple trees on the grounds.
Brandon Tintzman said the paver for his grandparents is perfect.
“It recognizes all the work my grandma has put into the fair, year in and year out,” he said. “It is really nice for her to be recognized.”
Gayle Tintzman guessed that she has worked at the fair for 36 years.
“But who’s counting,” she said. “I think I started in ’83.”
“She quits every year,” Brandon Tintzman said. “She says, ‘this is my last year, I’m not doing it again’ then a while later she says, ‘I could do one more year.’”
“I just love it,” she responded. “I really do. I love the people. l love to be around fair people, the second generation, maybe third generation are coming now. It’s special. These pavers are great.”
Darrel Sperry said the pavers are “better than a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.”
“People will look at these and say ‘oh, I know them’ or ‘I wonder who that is?’” he said.
Saville said the fairgrounds has already received some rave reviews.
“The families were totally stunned and some of them had forgotten that they were fair families,” she said. “So many of them are still so involved in fair” that being a farm family “is just a blip on their radar. To get to come back and be honored again is a nice gesture to show them we are still thinking of them even though they are not front and center.”
But their names will continue to shine from the pavers to the entrance of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.
Pavers are available for purchase by anyone for loved one’s birthday, to remember a loved one who passed away, a new baby or someone who just loves fair and wants their name on the walkway to be remembered. There are thousands of pavers available both at the entry gate and by the floral barn. The pavers cost $100 and the money goes in to the Fair Foundation for projects at the fairgrounds.
“It is such an inexpensive gesture that will go a long way to put that money toward a worthwhile project,” Saville said. “We have several in mind. How many people around here are ag related or have a special memory of fair? Maybe their family is so ingrained they never see this gate because they come in the back gate at three in the morning. This is just a nice gesture for people to always be a part of the fair family.”