Grange honors Cass, Berrien Youth Fairs

Published 2:10 am Monday, April 21, 2003

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
SUMNERVILLE -- Friends bringing their best potluck dishes, singing together and visiting is one way to describe the Friday evening Community Grange meetings in their Sumnerville hall.
For Margaret Beardslee, a resident of Brentwood in Niles, it is a time to sit again and play the piano.
For Barbara (Simpson) Conrad, formerly of Berrien Springs and now of Sumnerville, it is a chance to be with people since her husband died and visit.
Though their numbers have dwindled, the Grange still has a presence in the community.
Coming from Niles, Dowagiac and Berrien Springs, the third generation of members work together for the good of their community.
Last Friday the Master of the Michigan State Grange, Jeff Swainston joined the dinner in honor of National Grange Week and explained how new state officers and the state web site were helping bring the Grange more presence.
Kevin Young, the local master or president, is in charge of fund raising, Swainston added, his own former role before becoming the state's leader.
The local group is selling flower bulbs and a John Deere Gator from Klug Farm Equipment is again being raffled off.
Some state programs have been eliminated as the Grange looks at reversing the declining membership. Still, he added, some parts of the meeting will not change including having a Bible and American flag present, saying the Pledge of Allegiance and following the order of business.
The web site,, is being used as a model for other states he added.
Representatives from the two area fairs were presented community citizens awards from Young, following their talks, which coordinated with the decorations all in a fair theme.
Karen Klug, Berrien County Youth Fair executive director for the past eight years presented an overview of Berrien's fair coming Aug 11-16.
With her mom the secretary of the Berrien Fair Board since Klug was five, her whole life has revolved around the fair.
Not operated by the county, the Berrien Youth Fair has 18 board members and hundreds of volunteers, who work on 70 committees, Klug said.
Many generations are involved in keeping the 157 acres and 50 buildings in shape.
Youth from age five through 20 exhibit not only animals but crafts, flowers and other still exhibits in 13 areas, she added. Though 4-H members participate, it is not a 4-H Fair.
Besides country singers, during the week there is a circus and bull riding.
Besides the Youth Fair, the grounds are the location of many other events including horse and dog shows, picnics and motor home rallys.
One event which keeps growing is the Relay for Life which will be on the fairgrounds for the fourth time this June 28-29.
Fifth graders in the county come for Natural Resources Day at the end of April and learn about the soil, trees and recycling, Klug said.
Dean Hass, a Cass County 4-H Fair Board member for 15 years, said he was one of the first campers in Cassopolis with his six brothers and sisters and family. "We did cooking to tractor driving and showed pig and dairy," he added. At that time the grandstands were wood.
He even met his wife at the fair, She was showing sheep.
This year's Cass County 4-H Fair will be July 28-Aug. 3. New this year, he added is a gospel concert on Sunday.
The cement stage is being removed and a new portable stage with a roof will be brought in front of the grandstand for the concerts.