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Longtime Tallmadge resident Lee Crites received the Director of the Year Award from the Greater Ohio Showman's Association April 10 from Trustee Jeff Otterbacher.
Crites has been involved with the Summit County Fair for over 63 years. He began his time with the fair as a 4-H member, then volunteered his time to help clear more land for the fairgrounds to build more buildings. He was a member of the Tallmadge Fire Department and provided fire protection, security, standby medical emergency and parking assistance to the fair in the 1960s. In 1978, Crites joined the Fair board and served as vice president for 18 years, treasurer for five years and is currently on his 11th year as president.
Crites served as chair of the grounds committee for over 20 years. Some of the improvements made under his tenure as grounds chair were enclosing a creek basin, building a gate house, track upgrade, upgrading the grandstand, installing new bleachers, updating the administration building to a hall for weddings and banquets, storm sewer installation, adding a sprinkler system for the horse show ring, water and gas line installation, building picnic shelters, cleaned and maintaining horse barns, building heated restrooms and showers. Crites has worked with various clubs and organizations within the fair, like with the Saddle Horse Committee to install a kitchen and heat in the Saddle Horse Building.
For 31 years, Crites has coordinated and implemented 300 units a year during winter storage and he helps to prepare the barns for unit intake each year. He has been a key factor in constructing buildings, improving the grounds and maintaining the facilities. He and his wife, Nancy, have coordinated and ran the Snack Stop in the Arena Complex during events for the last eight years. The Snack Stop is a huge fundraiser for the society.
Lee works with a volunteer who brings in juvenile offenders needing community service hours to perform projects such as planting, weeding and watering flowers; painting; cleaning out barns; and cleaning buildings. Some of the young individuals while here under the direction of Crites or other volunteers have volunteered on their own go back to help or have joined 4-H and volunteer their time at the fairgrounds.
Nancy, who is also a fair board director, is very supportive of the time her husband devotes to the Fair board and is usually by his side helping out. Their daughter, Belinda, lives out of state with her family and their eldest daughter, Cindy, passed away in 2009. Both daughters grew up in 4-H, taking rabbits and a various assortment of other projects. Cindy was always at the fairgrounds with her parents helping out wherever she could.
Since Crites' retirement from his job with the city of Tallmadge, he volunteers five to seven days a week on the grounds preparing for rentals, mowing, providing maintenance on the buildings and anything else that may need to be done. "Everyone jokes with Lee that by the time he's ready to retire from the fairgrounds, he will have replaced every water line it has," said Summit County Fairgrounds Vice President Theresa Call, adding, "Lee Crites is an amazing man that also still has time to dedicate to his church and volunteers mowing and helping out at their favorite campgrounds. His tireless efforts have been a tremendous asset to the Summit County Fairgrounds."