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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Only candy rained on Lake County Fair parade

They always say you should try new things.

Don’t be afraid, they say. Give it a shot, they say. You won’t know if you like it until you try, they say.

They’re kind of a pain, aren’t they? 

I guess it’s not so bad if they challenge you to leave your comfort zone once in a while. 

Lately, my job seems to offer constant challenges to mine.

A few weeks ago, I was piloting a lawn mower on the turf at Classic Park in Eastlake. 

A few months ago, I did a P90X workout with a bunch of the contestants in the Lighten Up weight-loss contest. 

Take that, Paul Ryan. You’ve got nothing on me!

This week tops them all, though.

First, there was the parade. 

On Tuesday night, The News-Herald took part in the Lake County Fair parade that stretched from Harvey High School to the fairgrounds. 

Executive Editor Tricia Ambrose drove the van, and I walked alongside Community Engagement Editor Cheryl Sadler. 

We knew we were in trouble when we got to the parade stepoff lot at Harvey and discussed our strategy with the various candidates for office on the November ballot. 

No matter who we talked to, we heard we didn’t buy enough candy. 

A slew of them offered us some if we ran out. And we did.

Halfway through.

Trouble is, I didn’t know how far in front us — or behind — Maureen Kelly, Judy Moran, Dr. Lynn Smith or Jason Wuliger were.

So we just couldn’t bring a bucket up — or back — and ask for a few pounds of Tootsie Rolls.
They had plenty, too. 

Our strategy for next year’s parade is that we’re going to start buying the candy now. It’s not like it goes bad, right?

I believe it’s laden with a little something called “preservatives” that will keep it tasting sweet and delicious for years to come. 

But, after we ran out, we still had about a mile to walk to the fairgrounds and we had nothing to offer the kids who were begging us for some treats. 

After a while, I just stopped making eye contact. I’d wave a little, kibbutz with Cheryl and wish it wouldn’t be considered rude to climb in the back of the van to take a little nap. 

A couple of nights later, we took part in a coronation. 

It’s always been our contest, but this year we actually got to stage the Commerce Queen event at the Fair.

I was lucky enough to be up to my elbows in it from the start, and just before the crowning, got to meet the three finalists. 

I couldn’t have gotten a better introduction to the pageantry than to have spent time with Chris Yano, Beth Heeter and Patricia Kelly.

Each one of these Commerce Queen finalists would have been a spectacular choice. They all love their jobs, they all adore the people they serve and they are all incredibly dedicated to their employers. 

Yano spends countless hours working to ensure that no senior citizen in Fairport (or beyond) is lonely. 

Fairport Harbor Senior Center programs there run the gamut from brain-teasers to physically challenging exercise classes. There’s something for everyone, and everyone is welcomed with open arms. 

Heeter’s customers at Chase Bank in Mentor-on-the-Lake are like family. She helps them with problems and fixes mistakes they make in their financial affairs. They trust her, because they’ve known her for so many years. “I believe nice gets nice,” she said. 

And, nice she is. 

Kelly has a legion of fans at Shamrock Cottage in Mentor. They appreciate her knowledge of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh goods on sale in the shop, and for her Irish soda bread. A sign of how beloved you are is whether kids like you. 

“Kids call her Grandma,” said one of her biggest supporters.

I’d say we did well in our first year as the host of the Commerce Queen.

When it came time to place the tiara atop Yano’s head on Thursday, it was so fun to see her reaction. She was thrilled because of the support she got from her seniors, and giddy because of the love she felt from the family snapping pictures at the fairgrounds. 

They say a smile is worth a thousand words. 

In this case, it’s the same word — joy.

Twitter: @Lauranh


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