Grandparents find lots to share at fair

Generations: Event welcomes seniors, who often take along grandkids.

August 07, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Fair offered free morning admission and a schedule of activities to attract senior citizens to the fairgrounds yesterday. But for many older fairgoers, the biggest attraction was mingling with younger generations.

Vilis and Dagnija Kilpe of Columbia shared their love of farm culture with their grandchildren as they enjoyed events, including the 4-H beef steer show.

"It is important for kids to see this kind of stuff ... to know where your food comes from and so forth," said Vilis Kilpe, who lived on a farm in Latvia when he was a child. His family came the United States in 1950 and he became a physician.

The Kilpes took their daughter, Ingrid Huber, to the fair when she was a little girl. "I have always loved animals," Huber said. "I love farm and country life."

Now her daughter, Siena Huber, 3, especially likes horses, and her son, Peyton, 20 months, enjoys farm machinery and tractors.

Like many others, the Kilpes did not know ahead of time that fairgoers 62 and older were admitted free. Many said a day of breezy, humidity-free weather was more the draw.

Besides free admission, information tables, games, cooking demonstrations, a jazz duo and a drawing for a new computer were aimed at senior citizens.

Organizers were aware that many elderly residents live on a limited income and "we wanted to offer them the ability to come out and see the exhibits," said Mickey Day, president of the fair board. He expected plenty of seniors to be interested because, he said, in Howard County "if you ever were involved in farming, you have your roots in the fair."

Animals were among the attractions that seniors and children could enjoy together.

Eleanor Hill of Clarksville said her great-granddaughter, Sierra Miles, 6, was eager to see the rabbits.

"I have a pet rabbit," Sierra said. Her favorite thing about rabbits? "They bounce up and down," she said.

"We're here strictly for her benefit," Hill said. She and her husband, Hugh, had a farm but were unable financially to keep it going. Their children were in 4-H, and the couple used to bring their grandchildren to the fair. Now they enjoy bringing Sierra.

"I think it is important," Eleanor Hill said. Children should "know how to handle an animal, how to touch them, how to communicate with them," she said.

Many people with years of farm experience are active participants at the fair.

Ruth Proctor, 71, of Lisbon was a 4-H member when she was a young girl in Indiana, winning ribbons at the state fair for her angel food cake and other entries. Her children participated in 4-H, excelling in sewing, baking and crafts. For 25 years, Proctor was a cooperative extension agent for Montgomery County, working with 4-H clubs. When she retired, some of her grandchildren (she has nine) suggested she start a 4-H group.

Now she leads 16 members, ages 5 to 17, including four of her grandchildren. Granddaughter Hannah Tolson, 6, won a first-place ribbon for her gingerbread man this year and entered other baked goods and crafts.

"It sort of gets into your blood," Proctor said. "It is not unusual that if people grew up in 4-H, they give back the things they have learned."

Yesterday, Proctor was keeping an eye on some of the younger 4-H members as they volunteered to monitor one of the craft buildings.

"It's such a nice fair," Proctor said, noting the new animal barns and the fun of seeing the youths exhibit their work. During 4-H's 100 years, she said, children have developed new projects as interests have changed. Categories such as rocketry and computers are recent additions. But the emphasis on demonstrations, public speaking and leadership has remained constant.

Also at the Howard fair, "there is a very important agriculture aspect," Proctor said. "It is important that that continue even though we are becoming more urban."

Amid the family bonding yesterday, there were seniors who enjoyed the day without the help of younger companions. George and Helen Meiser of Ellicott City stopped by the senior displays early in the day and were looking forward to many aspects of the fair. George Meiser, 82, said he wanted to see pig racing and eat pit beef, while Helen Meiser, 80, was looking forward to the craft displays.

"It's great," she said of the fair. "It isn't as huge as [the state fair in] Timonium. It's more like a country fair."

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