- Kirk Ritchie
New Year, New Owners. One Last Goodbye.
After 32 years I can no longer say that I am an owner of the Springfield Fairgrounds. I’m kinda lost. Although my lovely bride would say that my being kinda lost is more of a daily occurrence. The historic Springfield Fairgrounds was finally sold to Ashley LaDuke and Dustin Gordon, last week. They are now the trusted caretakers of our beloved Elmwood Trotting Park, “Drunkards Reunion”, Springfield Fayuh. Congratulations guys. Go get ‘em!
In April of 1991, Kevin (brother) and I took over the fairgrounds. We had absolutely no idea what to expect. We just started cleaning things up, tearing down old buildings and try to “move ahead”. Fortunately for us, there were many local people who had a long history with the fair and they were not just willing to give us a change, but ready to jump in and help. From day one there were folks driving out to see the improvements and clean up. They offered help, money, materials, and moral support. I had just moved back to Maine from Virginia and was working in Portland. Friday afternoon I would drive to Springfield. Work on the fair all weekend and return to Portland either late Sunday night or early Monday morning. It was fun and exciting … and scary.
I was 30 when I started with the fair. Dustin and Ashley are lots younger than that. But they have the same passion that we did – looking to make lots of improvements and bring the fair back to the limelight. As they travel along on their journey, they’ll hit many bumps in the road. It’s inevitable. Running an agricultural fair requires lots of time invested – pretty much on a year round basis. They’ll also need some good luck and patience. Most importantly, they’ll need your support. They intend to run more events than John and I were able to. They’ll need folks to attend the events, helpers to operate food concessions, run events, park cars and handle security. And they’ll need sponsors. For 32 years I sweet talked, cajoled, begged a bit, laughed with, laughed at, and shared stories regarding the fair with our many incredible sponsors. Without the continued support of the local and regional businesses – the fair could not operate. The financial support is important. But the moral support is key. Without the regular feedback from all of you, who have loved the fair for so long, it would not have survived. Thank you.
I wish that I could list every sponsor who has been a part of the fair for so long. It’s just not feasible. So please accept this as my (our) heartfelt thanks. And for the wonderful crew of folks who have volunteered to help put the fair on each year, you’ll have our eternal gratitude. We have been so fortunate to have had hundreds of people help us over all these years. Some were teenagers who helped park cars. Others worked the gate or in a concession while our “mainstays” made sure that the events were well organized and run smoothly. Your help, good attitude and willingness & ability to work so well with the public was needed and appreciated. To all of you who have worked side by side with us at the fair – thank you. John and I will miss that aspect of our relationship.
John and I will be around. He’ll still be at the post office … sending my mail to some address that is not on the envelope. I’ll be at the real estate office – napping regularly in my old age. Oh sure, there are some things we’ll miss beyond our relationships with each of you. I’ll miss the women who enjoyed dancing topless at our Saturday night dances. I’ll miss some of the horseshoe pitchers passing out by 9:00 am on a nice, hot early fall day. And there are few things better to bring a smile to my face than going through the parking area and stumbling onto couples apparently celebrating their honeymoon again. Or having one of the local folks (drunk I may add) trying to escape our security team by jumping into one of the bigger rides and somehow unhooking their seatbelt – as the ride stops they’d fall out, as if they were a towel coming out of the clothes dryer, vomit and then threaten to sue. Or having the pigs escape our pig scramble arena to be chased by a couple dozen giggling kids. Who can forget Jim “Crash” Moreau blowing himself up with dynamite. He was so excited to be performing in Springfield, as he was getting ready he asked his assistant to “throw on a couple more sticks”. When the smoke cleared, Crash was clearly stunned – the crowd went wild prompting him to face the portable toilets and offer a big wave and bow to his fans. It took him most of the night to clear his head. The following year we had Crash back. He was going to jump a car over his bus plus 4 additional cars. We had to supply the car he was to drive. After a wonderful introduction, he fired up his car, getting up to speed, hit the ramp and promptly stalked at the top of the ramp. He was belly hung. That same night, Crash was going to drive his car through the “burning wall of steel”. Bill Soucie was helping us with all of Crash’s stunts. With this particular stunt, Bill set up 6 – 55 gallon drums – 2 rows of 3 high. He was then supposed to pour gasoline over them and wait for Crash to tell him to light ‘em up. In Crash’s excitement, he never gave the signal. He just fired up the car and came roaring down the track. Bill, not quite done dumping on the gas, threw the gas can one way, grabbed his match – lit it and tossed it towards the “wall of steel”. The wall caught fire just as Crash got there – but so did Bill. As Crash was ramming his way through the “flaming wall of steel”, Bill was rolling around on the ground trying to put out his own flames. Another successful night at the Ole Fayuh! No one was hurt and we, obviously, can laugh about it now.
Huh – bring me a 12 pack and I could tell these stories all night. Alas, enough from me. It’s time for Ashley and Dustin to build their own memories – all with your help.
I am going to miss my involvement with the day to day operations – but it’s time. And I’ll miss writing these updates. But, most of all, I’ll miss all of you. From John and I – thank you … for everything. You are the best!