10/01/12 — Saying 'thank you' to fair's champion

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Saying 'thank you' to fair's champion

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 1, 2012 1:46 PM

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Milton Ingram, who has directed the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair for 28 years, was honored Sunday afternoon at the fair for his long service to the fair and the Wayne County Livestock Association.

DUDLEY -- His friends described him as a man of many words -- the kind of person who never passed up an opportunity to tell a joke or to share a story.

But when the time came for Milton Ingram to address the crowd that converged on the Wayne County Fairgrounds Entertainment Arena Sunday afternoon to celebrate his looming retirement, he was at a loss.

One bystander joked that, perhaps, the handshakes and long embraces had taken an emotional toll on the 28-year veteran of the event that was unfolding outside that structure.

Or maybe, another friend suggested, Ingram's mind was on the people who were at the site, but not in attendance -- the fairgoers he has dedicated so much of his life to.

Either way, he kept his comments brief -- thanking the team he said ensured the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair thrived during his tenure as the event's manager.

"There's a whole lot of people I need to thank," Ingram said. "It's definitely not a one-man show."

But those who have worked for -- and alongside -- Ingram for the past 28 years said he deserves more credit for the fair's growth than he would give himself.

Like Wayne County Extension Service director Kevin Johnson who said Ingram's event rendered the State Fair obsolete.

"Why would I need to go to Raleigh when Milton's got everything lined up right here?" he quipped. "The Wayne County fair is awesome and Milton has been fantastic."

Or Wayne County Livestock Development Association president Curtis Shivar, who thanked his friend for the nearly three decades of hard work and passion that began back in 1985.

"I don't have to tell you the results of that (work)," he said. "You can see them around you today."

Scooter Ryals can attest to that.

He remembers the days before the Midway was paved -- when lights were strung across the grounds; when the facilities were a far cry from the "top-notch" ones that now grace the site.

"What he has accomplished, it is just totally amazing," Ryals said. "He is the one to blame for the last 28 years and for that, he is gonna be missed. I could just go on and on and on. He's done a wonderful, wonderful job."

But improvements in attendance and infrastructure are not the only things Ingram will be remembered for.

His kind spirit, Ryals said, also will be missed.

"He always treated everyone the way he would want to be treated," Ryals said.

Ingram, though, didn't act like a man who saw himself as a champion Sunday.

He was humbled -- not just by the crowd and the kind words, but by the opportunity to have done what he loves for so long.

Perhaps that is why he seemed so eager to get back outside to the event he has run for as long as most can remember.

He knew his dream job only has a few days of shelf-life left.

"You know, retiring is a hard decision," he said. "But it was time."