By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Today it’s time to say goodbye to an old friend for another year as the Elkhart County 4-H Fair wrapped up another successful run on Saturday.
This year’s fair has to be one of the best ones ever from a weather standpoint. The fair was right on the heels of a week featuring temperatures in the 90s with high humidity. Those sweltering conditions broke after the opening Friday and there was very little rain during the week.
It’s a busy week for me covering harness racing, the Parade 5,000, 3-on-3 basketball and the motorcycle races. All of those activities take me to the fairgrounds for seven of the fair’s nine days. While that may seem like a lot as CBS sportscaster Clark Kellogg reminded me when he spoke at the Community Leaders Prayer Breakfast at Elkhart Memorial High School recently at times it’s hard to consider what I do for a living as work. Watching harness races or 3-on-3 basketball games doesn’t really qualify as manual labor; however, the trick is turning what you observe into the printed words that appear in the newspaper.
The three-day harness racing program has turned into one of my favorites. I really can’t remember watching a harness race before the first year the assignment to cover the races at the fair was given to me. All I knew there were some pretty big shoes to fill as former Goshen News sports editor LeRoy Lambright had been a big harness racing fan and had thoroughly covered the races for many years.
While still probably considered a novice my knowledge of the sport has increased. A big part of that has been the patience of fair harness racing director Tim Graber and his assistant Brooke Harvell. Both have always taken the time to answer my questions no matter how dumb they might have been.
Drivers with local connections like Jay Cross, Don Eash, Mike Peterson and Harley Yoder have also been cooperative when it came time to answer questions for my stories.
Another person who deserves credit is track announcer Steve Cross, who is also the announcer at Hoosier Park in Anderson. Steve provides the fans and me with a lot of very useful information while he is calling the races.
“Steve is probably the premier track announcer around,” Graber said.
It’s always nice to hear feedback about your work and it’s even better when the remarks are positive.
On the final day of racing a gentleman approached me and said. “You’re Greg Keim from The Goshen News aren’t you?” When I told him I was he told me how many the drivers and owners appreciated the coverage.
One thing that fascinates me is some of the names given to horses. One would expect a horse named Jet Park or Radar Rocket to be fast, but how about one called Shes Only Coastin?
Among my favorites were Iwannabeastar, I’m A Sand Bagger, Shortskirtinhiheels, Heza Hot Cookie and Russell The Muscle.
One I’ll be looking for next year is Sand In My Bikini owned by Graber, who served as fair president this year and didn’t get to spend as much time at the track as he normally does.
What would a fair in Indiana be without some basketball?
Ed Pippenger does a great job running the 3-on-3 tournament at the fair.
One of the more unusual things happened when Riley Stichter and Steven Heatherly were forced to start a game again a team of three players as their third player was caught in traffic.
The duo played short-handed for about 10 minutes before the third player — Jake Frazier — arrived. Team Stichter managed to win the first-round game 18-15 and went on to win the championship in the male age 19-30 bracket.
One thing that was a little disappointing this year was the lack of female teams. The was only one division — age 13-15 — with seven teams. In the past there have been 10-12 and 16-and-over age categories.
It seems to me with the advances we have seen in local high school girls basketball from team like the NorthWood “Black Swish” and the Northridge Raiders there would be more interest.
The lack of a 16-and-over female division was even more disappointing when I found out that the one team that had entered included former Northridge basketball and softball standouts Haley and Madison Schrock. It would have been nice to see the Schrock twins, who have helped bring Northridge girls basketball and softball into the limelight, on the basketball court one last time before they head to Bowling Green State University to continue their softball careers this fall.
The 32nd annual Parade 5,000 was a success again under the direction of Rick Clark.
A total of 420 runners completed the 5K course that begins at Rogers Park and follows the parade route out to the fairgrounds. The 420 is off the record number of 474 in 2012 but still well above the 163 in the first year.
Several years ago the race underwent a big change by going to a chip-timing system in order to get faster and more accurate results. Another change is on the works for next year as registration will be done only on-line and will close at noon on the Saturday before the race. Runners will no longer be able to register the day of the race.
The motorcycle races wrapped up my fair coverage and gave me the opportunity to interview the fair queen as Sierra Walter was among the racers.
All in all the fair was a success, but the worst part about the fair being over is it means practice for fall sports is in the not too distant future. Girls golf practice starts on Friday while football, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, boys tennis and girls volleyball start on Monday, Aug. 5.