Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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July 26, 2013

ELKHART COUNTY FAIR: Former exchange student returns for the fair

Editor's note: The above video and more from the 2013 Elkhart County 4-H Fair can be found at The Goshen News' YouTube channel.

GOSHEN — Maria Martinez Berger missed the Elkhart County 4-H Fair by one week in 1999 as an exchange student from Brazil.

She’d stayed with host family Ron and Deb Roe in Syracuse.

“I was here when everyone was preparing for the fair but I had to leave the week before (to go back to Brazil),” Maria said. “I had a chance to come back and see this fair in 2000, exactly one year later. Oh my goodness, I had never seen anything like it before. I enjoyed the fair so much. I was really amazed.”

She’s back again 13 years later with her husband, Alexandre Berger, and eager to share her memories and make new ones at the fair this week. The couple married June 25, 2011 and live in Campeas, Brazil. They have been visiting family members in New Jersey.

“I told Alex we have to go to the fair while we are here,” Maria said.“I told him he was going to be amazed at seeing the fair.”

Her husband’s response? “Let’s go!”

The couple went to the fair on Monday and Alex shared his impressions of attending a 4-H fair for the first time.

“I was amazed and dazzled to see all the animals. I was amazed at the draft horses, so big and so strong, like a truck. They are so strong,” he said, smiling. “I ate a lot. I ate two hamburgers and the sweet corn. It was so good. The corn is so tasty. I had so much fun with the Roe’s (grand)kids.”

They walked through the animal barns and Alex said he didn’t think the smell of the animals “was so good but they do taste good.”

Both of them liked looking at the small animals in the Young MacDonalds Farm exhibit.

“We have no contact with little animals in Brazil, not even the big ones,” Maria said. “The little pigs were so cute.”

They compared a Brazilian fair to an American fair.

In Brazil, they only have rodeos.

“The rodeos are all commercial. There’s no volunteering — like the fair board here is all volunteers. The big companies have huge profits in the rodeo events,” Maria said. “They have no showing of animals, no traditional fair foods, no rides for the kids. The concept is so different here (in America). There are no alcoholic drinks here. They have alcohol (in Brazil). It’s all just for the community here.”

She was pleased to share American experiences with her husband.

“I am so glad Alex can share what I had with my American family. I am happy to be here,” she said.

They were back Wednesday afternoon to spend the day at the fair before the concert with Hunter Hays.

“I’m looking for the funnel cake. I like them,” Maria said. “Everybody is having fun, like riding the rides. Everyone works all year long for the fair. You can feel it in the air. The families together having fun.”

They laughed together while watching mini-donuts being made in one of the food concession stands and commented on all the different flavors available at a funnel cake stand.

Alex was trying to decide if he was going to eat the one pound hamburger available at another stand.

“There are so many choices here,” he said. “It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be a great day and to eat, of course.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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