The Elbert County Fair Board is pleased to recognize the 2020 Elbert County Fair Parade Marshals, Russ and Mary Steen.
Russ and Mary's involvement with the Elbert County Fair spans more than two decades, beginning when their children were participating in 4-H as Cloverbuds. A favorite activity was when their children, Russell and Mary Beth, dressed up their dogs for the Pet Animal Costume Contest. 4-H became a family activity. They were members of the Rattlesnake 4-H Club in the northern part of the County. At its peak, their club had 196 members. "It was the era we were in," Mary said. "4-H was the only thing kids could do." The club’s annual garage sale was their largest fundraiser each year. This would fund their activities for the year and any remaining items were donated to charity. The Steen children also enjoyed decorating the club’s float for the Elbert County Fair Parade. Their club was known for spending hours decorating impressive floats. Russell and Mary Beth were involved in many 4-H activities and projects, including horse, dog obedience, sheep, shooting sports, vet science, and cake decorating. During the summertime there was a different meeting or practice every night. "It kept us together," Mary said. "We were always working together. It was fun."
Ben Duke, Past President of the Elbert County Fair Board, says Russ and Mary Steen have been such staunch supporters of Elbert County and its Fair for so long, that “I can think of no other couple more deserving of the Parade Marshal recognition. As a 4-H leader, Mary always has been the first to volunteer and help in any capacity that is needed, whether it is tirelessly sitting in the Fair Office coaching kids on their thank-you notes, or by providing a great array of sumptuous snacks and drinks at the Junior Livestock Auction," Ben said. "Outside of the Fair, she consistently has shown her support for the 4-H Gala, and any other event that brings our community together." Russ served for many years as a member of our Fair Board. "Russ was always there to help with projects and initiatives that made for a better fair."
Russ and Mary felt it was important for them to get involved along with their kids. In 1996, they became 4-H leaders. Russ's role over a number of years was as a dedicated Shooting Sports leader, helping countless 4-H members become safer, more knowledgeable, and successful competitors.
Russ also became involved with the 4-H roping project. As a co-leader, with Don Hood, he felt it was important to develop and implement rules for the safety of the horse and 4-H member.
Mary liked to get involved with the youth, especially the youngest 4-Hers. She loved helping with the Cloverbuds. She really bonded with the 4 to 8 year old members. She is also a strong supporter of the junior market sale. For years, she helped make food for the buyers to enjoy during the sale. Their family's business, Stockyards Ranch Supply, has been a sale buyer and supporter of the Elbert County Fair for decades.
Through the years, Russ watched many hard discussions and decisions be made by the County Fair Board. "Once a decision was made, every board member had each other's back," Russ said. "I marveled how well they worked together." With many long-standing Fair Board members, Russ says there is an in-depth knowledge of how the fair and the fairgrounds have evolved over time.
While on the Board, Russ coordinated the annual Ranch Rodeo. It has always been a crowd favorite. In 2004, Russ and Mary were honored with the Partner in 4-H Award for their contributions together to 4-H and the Elbert County Fair.
Their love for Elbert County Fair has remained strong, staying involved with the fair for seven years after their kids graduated from 4-H. Since retiring from the Fair Board, Russ has been impressed to see former 4-Hers become members of the Board, demonstrating the leadership necessary to carry the Fair well into the future. In looking back at their involvement, they credit the amazing support they had from other volunteers. They are thankful for the support they received from Ben Duke, Ann Pigeon, Kipp Nye, Connie Cecil, Arletta Wallden, Caroline Burris, Dan Carpenter, Phil Davis, and many others.
"It has been a real pleasure to work alongside this amazing couple for so many years," Ben said. “Congratulations on being the 2020 Elbert County Fair Parade Marshals.”