Fair Organizers See the Fruits of their Work in the Youth of McCracken County
It's a chilly, breezy day in early March. Carson Park, home of the McCracken County Fair, is still. Nearly four miles away, the South Paducah Kiwanis Club is abuzz with activity. The work of a handful of members reaches forward to the warm days of June to sculpt the activities that will take place at the now silent park.
The South Paducah Kiwanis Club sponsored their first McCracken County Fair in 1961. In all of the 53 years since, the organization worked to ensure the best possible fair for the people of the county and Western Kentucky. While their passion for creating a family-friendly environment rich with activities and entertainment is always evident, what is often not seen by the public are the results of their labors in our county.
The Kiwanis utilize proceeds from the fair to fund their work with the youth of our community. "When we celebrated our 50th anniversary of hosting the fair, we realized we had turned over to the youth of McCracken County a little over a million dollars," says Tommy Brown, previous Fair Chair. "We've also given to the Shriner's Burn Center, River City Mission, St. Nicholas and others. But our passion is the youth of our area. And most of that says right here in our county."
Just one example of the Kiwanis' work is their head start shoe program. "We work with teachers to identify students who may need shoes. We've been able to provide thousands of dollars in shoes to kids who are sometimes going into the school year with shoes that don't fit or are not warm enough for the fall and winter."
Denice Cicardo, current Fair Chair, always has children of McCracken County in mind as she organizes fair activities. "Last year we gave away $35,000 at our Christmas party to fifteen different organizations. Many may not know that when they come through those gates what they are supporting."
And the organization also utilizes the fair to touch the youth who are involved in its activities. "The beauty pageant is a great example," adds Tommy. "With many pageants, there's a high entry fee and the hope is to win a trophy and a crown. We add prize money, then the queen goes to the state fair to help with the little mister and miss pageant. They also get breakfast with the governor, a trip that we cover. We feel like we are helping develop a personality. It's not just a beauty pageant. Its a character building opportunity."
Tom Emerson, former Fair Chair, remembers one FFA student from Heath who participated in a greased pig contest. "She was the only one who could catch and hold that little thing. She named it Earl after the man who'd organized the contest. She found out a bit later it was a girl and renamed it Earline! But she took that little pig and raised it and bred it. She went on to college and studied agriculture. So even in something like that, we see the fruits of involving youth."
From giving to youth organizations to beauty pageants, talent contests, and livestock shows, the fair proves to be an enriching event with too many benefits to count. The fruits of the labors of the South Paducah Kiwanis reach far beyond the last week of June and into the lives of the children in McCracken County.