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Louise Johnson named ‘Friend of the Fair’

LANA MUTHLER/THE EXPRESS Louise Johnson, center, was named the 2017 Friend of the Fair at Sunday night’s opening ceremonies of the Clinton County Fair. She was honored with certificates and proclamations presented by, from left, Janaan Maggs on behalf of State Rep. Mike Hanna, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred R. Strathmeyer Jr., Clinton County Commissioner Pete Smeltz and Clinton County Fair Board President Philip Courter.

MACKEYVILLE — “I now proclaim the 45th Clinton County Fair open.”

With those words from Philip Courter, president of the Clinton County Fair Association board of directors, the 2017 fair was officially opened Sunday evening.

But before that, there were people to introduce and people to thank, including a special volunteer, Louise Johnson, who received the 2017 Friend of the Fair Award for her years of service to the fair.

The accolades came from many directions.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred R. Strathmeyer Jr., made the surprise announcement that Johnson was this year’s recipient of the honor.

“She’s a farmer, a gardener, a school bus driver, a Sunday school teacher, the one who started the Sizzling Seniors Talent Show at the fair,” Strathmeyer said, as both Johnson and the crowd realized who this special volunteer was.

He talked about Johnson’s amazing record of volunteerism, calling her a woman who’s spent years giving of her time and talents to promote agriculture and give back to the community.

Strathmeyer was followed by Courter, who read a declaration from U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, who also noted Johnson’s wonderful contributions to the fair.

Next in line was Janaan Maggs, aide to State Rep. Mike Hanna, with a proclamation. Maggs called Johnson, “an amazing wife and mother, a lady who never says ‘no,’ and is always willing to help in any way she can.”

Clinton County Commissioner Pete Smeltz took his turn next, reading a letter of acclamation from the commissioners. He said Johnson is a person who has accomplished many things.

“Louise believes, because of her faith and values, in giving so much back to the community. There’s so much needed, and you’ve done it all your life,” Smeltz said, smiling at Louise.

“You have an amazing record of volunteerism,” Smeltz continued, mentioning her work in the fair office, with the Hershey baking contest for 22 years, at her church, with the Daughters of the American Revolution, as a bus driver, farmer, gardener, Sunday school teacher, the founder of the Sizzling Seniors Talent Show, and a volunteer at Haven Skilled Rehabilitation and Nursing and Lock Haven Hospital. “Thank you for being someone who takes pride in her community,” Smeltz said.

Last, but certainly not least, Ed Peiffer, vice president of the Clinton County Fair board, took the microphone.

“You are a shining example of community spirit,” he told Louise, presenting her with a proclamation from State Sen. Joseph Scarnati.

“She doesn’t say ‘no’ to anybody. This is a well-deserved reward,” Peiffer continued as the crowd rose to its feet and gave this year’s “Friend of the Fair” a rousing round of applause.

Johnson’s face was filled with emotion as she was asked to say a few words.

“It isn’t often that you catch me speechless, but I’m speechless,” she said.

“I don’t do anything I don’t enjoy. I don’t deserve this. Thank you very much,” she said as she walked from the stage with four certificates in hand. She was soon joined by the presenters for a special photograph.

A memorial ceremony for members of the “fair family” who died in the past year was very emotional, most especially for Barb Forshey, this year’s fair co-manager, whose husband Richard “Dick” Forshey died within the past year, leaving a legacy of hard work and volunteerism at the fair behind.

Dick served as a member of the fair board for several years and as fair manager in 2015 and 2016.

Others who gained a sunflower on the memorial wreath included Evelyn S. Plotts, Melissa Moore, Kathryn Adams, Madelyn Ingram, Floyd Layne, Robert “Bob” Rote, and Susan Kramer.

The memorial ceremony was conducted by Diane Nyman with poems by her daughter, Heidi.

Courter also took a few moments to talk about some of the improvements at the fair during the past year. He noted a replaced livestock road, a stone road connecting to the exit road for race cars so they don’t have to drive through the fairgrounds, new shelving in the commercial building, and updated exterior lighting. He said the fair board also purchased the restaurant property adjacent to the fairgrounds. He said the fair will keep the field, but the restaurant itself is for sale.

Those seated on the stage for the opening ceremony included fair officials and board members — Blair Courter, Chad Jeirles, Don Dunkle, vice president Ed Peiffer, president Philip Courter, Wayne Bechdel, Jim Wech, Ruth Eoute, Robin Seyler, Diana Nyman, fair co-managers Barb Forshey and Donna Wech, Dosie Cox, Donna Timblin and Connie Peiffer, and junior board members Blaine Walizer, Linzy Carson and Jessica Jeirles.

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