GREENFIELD — For three decades, Carolyn Grass has sat in the auctioneer’s booth during the final livestock event at the Hancock County 4-H fair, looking over the crowd and watching with a smile as 4-H’ers wrap up a year of hard work.
As the clerk of the annual animal sale, she is tasked with deciphering the announcer’s quick but rambling speech.
She jots down any important information, hands copies of receipts to 4-H’ers and winning bidders. And without missing a beat, she moves on to next one.
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Grass took the clerk’s seat for one final time Friday night as the 2016 fair came to the close. After more than 35 years filling the post, she’s announced she’ll be back in 2017 as a spectator alone; the clerk’s job will be passed on, hopefully to someone with as much passion for the program as Grass has shown over the years, 4-H officials said.
The public livestock auction is conducted on the last night of the fair. The bids the clerk is tasked with tracking tally the monetary reward a 4-H’er has earned as a show of support from friends or family, said auction superintendent Tim Lewis.
Grass has been the face thousands of 4-H’ers see as they complete their projects for the year, always offering a friendly smile as she hands out the ticket to their final prize, Lewis said.
The clerk’s job seems simple – quickly jotting information down about the bids, but it is tough when juggling questions from kids and monitoring shouts from the audience, said Debbie Vansickle, the chair of supreme showmanship.
“With Carolyn doing the job, everyone knew it would be done and done well,” Vansickle said. “She’s one of those people quietly working in the background to support us.”
It was Grass’ late husband who talked her into volunteering at the 4-H auction so many years ago, she said.
Malcolm Grass — always an encourager and lover of 4-H — pushed her to take over as the clerk of the sale after an agriculture teacher from Eastern Hancock Schools stepped down from the position nearly 40 years ago, she said.
Agricultural association members happily welcomed her into the fold, she said.
Since then, she’s seen hundreds of 4-H’ers pass through the show barn, including her two sons and two granddaughters. Seeing those kids and the product of their hard work is best part of being the clerk, she said.
The parents of the 4-H’ers participating in this year’s livestock auction erupted in applause when Grass took the auctioneer’s booth Friday night. Four-H officials gave Grass a bouquet of flowers and a banner proclaiming “grand champion clerk 2016,” and asked that she take down just one more bid.
And so for one last time, Grass picked her pencil and jotted down a name, a pig and a price. She handed the paperwork over, gathered her new purple banner and left the barn with her family and bit of a glimmer in her eye.
“It’s time to let someone else have all the fun,” she said.