Locals receive ‘Friends of Illinois County Fairs’ Award

The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs held its 103rd annual convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Ill., Jan. 19.

John (Jack) and Laurel Ratcliffe of the Boone County Fair in Belvidere, Ill., were the joint recipients of the “Friends of Illinois County Fairs” Award.

Jack has been on the fair board for 39 years and has been vice president of the association for more than 20 years. He serves as entertainment and track chairman. The Boone County Fair boasts one of the largest truck and tractor pulls in the state, partly because of Jack’s leadership.

Laurel has managed the Grange Food Stand Complex for more than 40 years and serves as Gate 6 superintendent. She is Jack’s “gal Friday” behind the scenes and takes care of all the book work, contracts, office duties and computer work. Her hours begin at 4 a.m. and end well after Happy Hour.

Together, with the invaluable assistance of volunteers, they work on building maintenance, keeping the grounds manicured, painting, spraying and repairing. They are dedicated to maintaining a local family fair where everyone is welcome to enjoy all the events and activities.

Jack and Laurel are like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep on going and going,” according to Al and Darlene Henninger.

Lyle Lee, Boone County Fair president, calls Jack and Laurel some of the hardest-working people he knows, and added that they work countless hours above and beyond the call of duty.

Their efforts extend beyond the Boone County Fair to the Flora Grange, Pomona Grange, Illinois State Grange, Farmland Protection Project, Boone County Soil and Water, and their church. Jack and Laurel are always the first to step up when there is a friend or neighbor or someone they’ve never met in need of help; it doesn’t matter if it is monetary, cleaning up after a disaster, harvesting crops, rebuilding a home, serving a meal for a funeral or Habitat for Humanity workers, or simply giving someone a ride home. Neither of them knows how to say “No,” said Larry and Emalee Colver.

From the March 6-12, 2013, issue

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