MORRISON – Two longtime fair volunteers will have another reason to smile this week as the 144th Whiteside County Fair gets underway.
On Friday at the “Friend of the Fair” presentation, Paul Vock and Dan Heusinkveld, both of Morrison, will be honored for their years of service and support.
“We were selected by the other board members, basically, against our wishes,” said Vock, 79, as he sat back and laughed while looking over at his longtime friend, Dan Heusinkveld, 77.
The two, a humble pair of hard workers, exemplify the qualities the board looked for in “Friend of the Fair” candidates, an award that has been celebrated for 25 years.
Vock was a farmer before he retired, and Heusinkveld had worked for the Whiteside County clerk’s office since 1954. Both have been involved with the fair for more than 35 years.
“It’s services, work and ideas,” Heusinkveld said. “It’s what keeps the fair going and keeps it fresh.”
“I was a farm kid,” Vock recalled. “We were poorer than church mice back then. … Everybody was.”
“My folks would bring me down to the fair, and we’d sit behind the old rabbit house,” Vock said.
“My mom would bring fried chicken, and that was kind of a vacation for us.”
“My grandparents lived adjacent to the fairgrounds,” Heusinkveld added, “and I spent a lot of time here as a kid.”
“When Dan and I came on [to work at the fair], we were two kids,” Vock said with a chuckle. “Everybody [in charge] was 80 years old. So, if there was any work to be done around here, Dan and I had to do it.
“When we first came on, the grounds were a mess. The buildings were run down. [The fair] was having trouble making ends meet. From that, we’ve worked toward what we have today. I think it’s a big improvement.”
The demolition derby continues to draw a big crowd every year, Vock said, and they’ve pushed for more musical acts. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, country vocal band Home Free will make a scene. The a capella group was the season 4 winner of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”
“You prep all year long,” Heusinkveld remembered. “You analyze what went well and what could go better and work from there. The fair is about enjoyment for the people who come here.”
Fair food always is popular, too, and the “Friend of the Fair” honorees have had their share of favorites in Morrison.
“I have three,” Vock said. “There’s a place on the end of the grandstand that has Polish dogs with onions and peppers and everything on it. There’s a guy on the corner that sells foot-long corn dogs, and then there’s a place up the driveway that has pizza slices.
“They’re really good, but they’ll give you a bit of heartburn.”
“You always have to have the lemonade,” added Heusinkveld.
“When I leave here, I want this to continue,” Vock added as tears welled up in his eyes. “I’ve spent a lot of years here, and it’s not been work.
“It’s a labor of love.”