GREENVILLE — Ken Coates Sr. has been selected to serve as the grand marshal for this year’s Great Darke County Fair.
Coates recently retired as head caretaker of the fairgrounds.
It was noted in a previous report, Coates was hired in April 2001 as a mower, and remained in that position for one year, when he was promoted to assistant caretaker and worked under Head Caretaker John Robinson. In 2004, Coates and wife, Ona, moved into the caretaker residence on the fairgrounds. When Robinson retired, Coates then shared the head caretaker responsibilities with George O’Dell until 2008, when Coates became head caretaker.
Coates grew up in Darke County, having gone to school at Ansonia in the early years and then transferred to Gettysburg, from where he graduated in 1962. He worked at Armco and Corning, each for a few months, before going to Frigidaire in Dayton, retiring from Harrison Radiator there in 1999.
He said he really enjoyed the job at the fairgrounds. During his tenure there, he worked for Fair Secretaries Kerry Martin and Daryl Riffle.
“Daryl is a gem to work for, and Kerry was real nice,” Coates said. “Most everybody treated me pretty good.”
Coates said he started working at the fairgrounds because he wanted some extra money.
When asked what is favorite part of the fair is, he responded, “There is a lot of entertainment…horse races…fair food. It’s hard to pick just one, but, I liked looking at the animals and talking to the people.”
The fair board said Coates has been “a great asset” to the Darke County Agricultural Society, indicating he was responsible for the setup and tear-down of approximately 300 annual non-fair events as well as the nine-day annual fair that begins the third Friday of each August. He supervised a staff of maintenance workers who were also responsible for upkeep of 195 acres, 53 buildings, 20 restrooms, 228 horse stalls and a vast inventory of tools, equipment, pens, cages, tables, chairs and many other items that are used both fair and non-fair time.
“We took care of the grounds, and it wasn’t all just me,” he said. “It was all my help.”
Coates had been described as a jack of all trades, with skills including welding, fabricating, plumbing, carpentry, minor electrical repair and service/repair of all motorized equipment.
It was noted he could always be found working outside of his normal hours and on weekends, having a passion for his position and treating everything at the fairgrounds as if it were his own.
His reasons for retiring?
“It’s time to get out,” he said. “The job is very physical and I’ve been doing it for 15 years. Am I going to miss it? Yes, I am.”
Coates still plans to visit the Great Darke County Fair. He and his wife, the former Ona Lindemuth, don’t live that far away.
The couple are the parents of three children, Michelle, Wendy and Ken Jr.; four grandchildren, two stepgrandchildren; and two stepgreat-grandchildren. He also has two sisters, Beverly Marker of Gettysburg and Jane Smith of Troy; and brothers, Ronald of Troy, and Jack, who is deceased.
How is Coates spending his time now?
“I am working on my house and doing odd jobs, and I got me a drone and playing around with it for something to do,” he replied. “I gotta have something to do.”