Fair dedicating show arena to GusePublished 7:41pm Thursday, July 25, 2013
Before the 162nd Cass County Fair gets started with the parade and opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Sunday, the show arena will be dedicated to R. James Guse, who left a large legacy between the fair and the Board of Commissioners.
The 2004 fair was the 25th for Jim and Barb Guse when they served as grand marshals, coming over from Benton Harbor to farm fulltime instead of hanging overhead garage doors.
During 15 years in county politics, Mr. Guse, who died last December at 75 after a bout with thyroid cancer, chaired the county board which approved construction of the Law and Courts Building, though the project closest to his heart remained the 1990-91 show arena.
The father of five explained his belief in fair projects this way: “So many go home from school and don’t know what to do. A project can take their time and teach them something. It gives them experiences they can use in their lives. Kids with livestock spend a lot of time with their animals, but still exhibits are great. I’ve always said we need to get city kids involved, but it’s hard to get leaders because they think it’s a farm thing. We should have a lot of kids doing little projects to take to the fair and to show their parents, grandparents and friends.”
Mr. Guse spent a decade on the fair board until he was appointed to the county commission after the death of Dennis Stamp. He returned for a year after Jim Mesko suffered a heart attack.
Mr. Guse refused to use “chairman” to describe his tireless work on the show arena, opting for the more inclusive “coordinator.”
He was not on the fair board when he undertook that project, “the greatest thing I’ve ever been involved in. We got $60,000 from the state in grants. That got us started, then the building committee would report to the fair board” headed by 2003 grand marshal John Norton of Cassopolis.
Mr. Guse logged several years as beef superintendent, then auction superintendent, making him responsible for lining up auctioneers and ring workers for Thursday night’s market animal sale and recruiting buyers.
The three youngest Guse daughters participated in livestock shows, particularly beef and sheep.
Mr. Guse valued the fair as “giving experience in winning and losing. Losing’s part of life, too … I used to fight with commissioners to give something to the fair … You spend a fortune on these kids sending them to a detention home. Spend 10 cents to keep them out rather than $100 to straighten them up.”
The Guse family is also donating a new sound system.