For Charlie Eggink, not a county fair missed since 1943
SIBLEY, Iowa -- On its opening day, the Osceola County Fair drew new and veteran fairgoers alike. Charlie Eggink has been a familiar face on the fairgrounds since he first started showing in 4-H 70 years ago. Brian Gottlob, on the other hand, will help with the Osceola County Fair for the first time this year as he takes the reins as the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA advisor.
Since 1943, Eggink hasn't missed a county fair -- even when he was serving in the military.
"One year I was in service, but I had a three-day leave, so I got to come to the fair," Eggink said with a laugh.
During his years in 4-H, Eggink showed dairy cattle, and when he started, 4-H'ers slept at the fairgrounds in lofts above the cattle and horse barn.
"It was crowded, hot. At that time parents didn't go back and forth every day because there was no money for gas," he remembered. "So once you got here, you stayed here until you went home, and you stayed in the barn above the cattle where the heat all rises."
"And there was watermelon fights from one barn to the other so everything was wet and sticky," he added.
When Eggink's children were old enough to be in 4-H, he encouraged them to join their local club.
"I thought it was a good program. They learn a lot of responsibility. You have an animal or sewing or baking or whatever, it's what you achieve that counts," he said.
Each of his five children showed livestock in 4-H, and now his grandchildren are carrying on the tradition.
"My five children all showed for nine or eight years, whatever they could, and now my grandchildren are showing," Eggink said.
Eggink has served as the dairy superintendent for more than 50 years, and he admits the fair has changed since 1943.
"Back then, there were not a lot of programs to go to," he remembered. "It was mainly your project, and you spent most of your time with your project."
During the first years Eggink showed, there was not a midway, and the "fair just had no money to do anything," he explained.
"But at that time, there was open-class dairy, open-class horses, there was open-class hogs," he added.
After showing dairy for nine years and volunteering for many more, Eggink said the lessons he learned in 4-H have been lasted a lifetime.
"These are the things you learn, and you never forget them," he said. "It's not something you learn one day and if you forget it -- so what? It's something you never forget."
Like many county 4-H programs, Eggink said there has been a decrease in participation in many of the categories in the Osceola County 4-H program.
"When I started, every farm had livestock. Now we're more grain farmers. I'm not saying it's bad, but there are things these kids don't get involved in," he said. "It's a great program, and I wish more of them would get involved of it."
After all that time, it's the kids who keeps him coming back.
"You see them grow up," he said. "You start with them when they are 10, and then by 17 or 18, a lot of them are still there, and you watched them grow and excel in things that without 4-H they wouldn't have gotten to do."
Eggink is a familiar face at the Osceola County Fair, but this will be the first year Gottlob will help lead the FFA members at the fair. He began working as the agriculture instructor and FFA advisor at the Sibley-Ocheyeden high school on July 1 and said so far, things have been going well.
"I'm really amazed at the support that Osceola County has for its youth, especially as it relates to agriculture," he said.
Gottlob will help the FFA members as they run the FFA lunch stand, one of a handful of food stands at the fair.
"The kids are quite involved, and we do just the lunch stand, which keeps us busy," Gottlob said.
A native of McCook County, S.D., located west of Sioux Falls, S.D., this is Gottlob's first teaching position, and he said he has been learning a lot from former FFA advisor Mike Earll.
"This fair is exciting to see, and I'm excited to be a part of the Sibley-Ocheyedan school district and the community," he added.