When going to The Great Darke County fair, entering Gate 2 by the hospital, the first thing you will see are several colorful and outstanding flower beds. For 40 years, this bed has been planted and maintained throughout the growing season by the Ladybug Garden Club.
The current chairpersons, Becky Collins, Shirley Linder and Carol Baughman, put in a lot of time and energy along with a schedule of three or more of their members to maintain the gardens each week.
The original bed was a raised bed which allowed the soil to wash out in rains. Around 1976, Jeannette Davis and I literally dug up railroad ties between Lightsville and Union City and brought them in to secure a more permanent bed. Even though we had the railroad spikes to secure the ties in place, soil still washed out.
According to newspaper articles, in 1978 the Darke County Agriculture Society made some major improvements to the fairgrounds area. One was a large section of the grandstand with new flame-resistant flooring. A new building was erected to house the sheriff’s department and also to be used for voting by membership with storage area in the winter. It was built at a cost of $7,800 with a concrete floor measuring 24x30x9 with insulated roof and steel doors. Also, the show ring between the two Cow Palace buildings was added at $5,943.
A new flower bed, with a concrete base, was constructed in front of the coliseum. The cement base would now keep the soil within the bed. The bed measured 18×37 and built at a cost of approximately $1,400. A large walkway surrounds the flower bed. The agricultural society has always furnished the flowers with the Ladybug Garden Club doing the planting and maintenance.
Darryl Mehaffie was instrumental in getting the gazebo erected. “The gazebo area has always been a place that attracted people to congregate because of the open shady area of the pine trees and beautiful flower bed that had been in place for many years. We had Dancing Waters there for a couple years which drew large crowds each time it performed. Seeing that the area was a place people liked to be, I came up with the idea of a gazebo that would be large enough to have events and performances on. The idea for the gazebo came from a German gazebo located up north. With an idea in mind I contacted an architect and had plans drawn. The placement was important and the large flowerbed was perfect as a prelude to the Gazebo. A visitor coming through Gate 2 would see a large colorful flowerbed with the gazebo behind it. So my wish to have a place for all fair-goers to relax enjoy beautiful flowers and music was born… then in August 1986 the Gazebo was dedicated to the People of Darke County to enjoy and use free of charge.”
Thirteen years ago, Becky Collins became a member of the Ladybug club and she asked her friend, Shirley Linder, to join the club – they have been flower bed chairpersons ever since. These plantings received The Ohio Association of Garden Clubs State Beautification Award in 2005.
They start early to choose the designs, flowers, order the flowers, get the help of young men to assist in cleaning the bed, trim around the gazebo and coliseum area, plant and mulch. It’s a busy summer job for the Ladybug girls who help to maintain the bed.
This year Karri Stickley of the Greenville FFA, called at the end of the school year with a great donation of geraniums, petunias and begonias; all were great plants and added color to the flower bed in front of the coliseum as well as in front of the caretakers home on Sweitzer Street.
Fair is almost here, enjoy the week and check out the fair beds at Gate 2.