PAULDING — When he first became a part of the Paulding County Fair Board in 1974, Lonnie Miller of Grover Hill had one very definite reason to embrace it.
“I love working with the kids,” he said.
But while Miller has been a part of the board ever since, there has been one thing that has made him uncomfortable.
“Some state office always gives (the board) a proclamation for the fair,” he said, “but they also wanted to honor one of us.”
The uncomfortable part came this year, when the “one of us” honored via proclamation turned out to be Miller himself.
“I’m not in it for the glory,” he said. “I didn’t want someone to look at me and say, ‘wait a minute, I did more than he did.’”
Miller initially joined the board as a way to help others, not knowing he was about to make a lifetime commitment.
“My uncle’s kids had horses and hogs, (and) I had been in 4-H,” he recalled. “They asked me to come help.”
Eventually, his help at the fair led to becoming a part of the board.
“They were short on board members,” he said.
A continuous membership of 45 years means that Miller is reaching the end of his 15th, 3-year term with the Paulding County Fair Board.
Looking back at his time spent with the board, Miller believes that the main changes to the fair have been in the form of the various different buildings that have replaced the older ones. The Paulding County Extension building is one such example, having been constructed at a spot where a pair of older facilities existed.
“The (Paulding County) commissioners had to have the extension building, and they worked with us,” he explained.
One of the next to arrive were the new restrooms at the fairgrounds’ west end.
“Volunteers went out and did those themselves,” he said.
Other fair improvements came in the form of new, improved versions of already existing structures.
“The show arena used to be where the poultry barn is now,” he said. “The old show arena was much smaller.”
Because Miller remains interested in youth, he is pleased with donors such as Mr. and Mrs. Otto Jacobs, who gave money toward a building to be used by any youth organization ranging from FFA to a wrestling club.
“There is also the youth leadership building,” he said. “Any youth group can rent it for nothing, but if you wanted to rent it for a reunion, then you need (money).”
Miller is proud to be a part of a county where donors go all out for children. One such fundraiser netted around $6,500, but when a board meeting began later on, it was revealed that an anonymous donor had contributed $100,000.
Fundraisers continue to bring in new facilities, including the more recent swine, poultry, sheep and goat buildings, but also help the fair in other ways. During a recession, an idea to bring in day sponsors for the fair proved more successful than planned, and the effects are still felt to this day.
“That’s why rides are free till 5,” he said. “That meant a lot, because I can see kids riding rides they wouldn’t be able to ride otherwise. If a project is for the kids, this county really backs it.”
Miller already looks forward to future board projects, including a new rabbit barn (which he hopes will come to fruition in 2021) and a steer barn to follow.
But while the fair continues to change its appearance on a gradual basis, the board’s purpose of making the grounds better, he believes, has not changed at all.
“I still love working with kids,” he said. “My theory is that if you can keep them busy, you can keep them out of trouble, keep them off the streets.”