By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — For the past 30 years, the Great Darke County Fair has had a voice that rings out over any other. You’ve heard his voice announcing commercials, birthdays, engagements and the chance to purchase a ticket for any number of events in front of the Grandstand from a fair goer that can’t make it to the event. However, you may not know his name or his face. Since 1992, Greg Peck’s distinct voice has been as much a part of the fair as the rides and livestock.
In the first few years after purchasing the sound service, Peck had giagantic shoes to fill. He was following in the footsteps of Bob Curtis who had performed the service at the fair for over 60 years. Curtis stuck around for the first five years as fair goers got aquainted with the new voice.
Gregory Peck Sound Service had a plan when Peck took the reigns. According to Peck, Curtis mainly waited until people came to him to announcement. Peck, knowing the area, went out and began soliciting advertising to be announced over the loud speaker system.
Cell phones have had a huge impact on the paging business. “In the early 90s we would do $500-$600 a day in paging. Within five years, maybe $100 a week.” Even though the paging aspect has dwindled, Peck continues to announce birthdays and anniversaries every fair. Over the past 30 years, Peck has also been directly involved with fair goers finding their happily ever-after. “I’ve proposed, I think, five times.”
After suffering the devasting loss of his wife, Jennifer Peck, this year, Peck wasn’t sure he would be able to continue coming to the fair. He choked back tears when commenting on how great of a help-mate she was, “I didn’t know how good until she’s not here.” He admitted that she had made a big impact in Darke County, including the Annie Oakley Festival and at Wayne HealthCare working in the emergency room for 22 years.
He continues to work to rebound from the loss and noted, “I did rebound and we are investing in more equipment. We are going to get bigger and better.” Although new equipment is always necessary, some of the equipment his sound service uses is over 30 years old. “Two big speakers on the side of the Coliseum, I got those from Bob. There’s a horn (speaker) in the rabbit building I got from Bob. The show arena, both of those horns are from Bob. They are 40 years old,” said Peck.
Peck shared some of the history of his predecessor. Curtis started at the Darke County Fair when he was six years old. A tree, caddy-corner from where the sound service sets up its trailer today, marks the spot where the Mic Tent once stood. The tree was planted by the Curtis family so they would have a place to hang one of their speakers.
Although he has been the voice of the fair for 30 years, he spent a lot of time at the fair prior to that as a Sheriff’s deputy. He and other deputies would stand by the amusement section waiting to hear Curtis’ voice say, “It’s midnight, the Darke County Fair is now closed.” They would then make a sweep to get everyone to leave. Today, you won’t hear a sendoff at midnight. “Now at midnight, there’s nobody here. When the food vendors around me start to close…I don’t feel that I have a need to stay open late and wait for the last person to leave. And, I need my sleep.”
What’s next for Gregory Peck Sound Service? Curtis spent 62 years as the voice of the fair, “Bob told me when he left that I would never make it.” Peck seems to agree and plans hopes to stay on for a minimum of another six year. That would put him at the same age as Curtis when he turned it over to Peck.
Peck has already started the process of eventually handing it over to family. At the same time Peck is at the Darke County Fair, he is also doing the Allen County Fair – two of the largest in Ohio. “My son takes care of Allen County. I go up regularly so they see my face,” said Peck. He hopes his family will continue on with the service after he has retired his voice.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected]