GOSHEN — Plenty of local families go to the fair every summer, but this year is the first time that Richard Raposa from the Dominican Republic has seen anything quite like the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.
Raposa’s parents are involved in mission work in Jarabacoa, D.R. His father works at the Caribbean Mountain Academy, which works with struggling teens, like those with drug or behavioral problems. Raposa’s mother also works at a school in the D.R.
Several local families have taken trips to do mission work in that area of the D.R., getting to know Raposa and his family. Dean and Kate Rink have taken winter mission trips to the D.R. the past seven years and worked out with the Raposas for Richard Raposa, 18, to stay and work at their farm for a summer, while also applying to U.S. colleges. Raposa has duel citizenship because his father is originally from Boston and his mother is from the D.R.
Because the Rink family is very involved in helping out at the fair, Raposa has been not only gotten to see many of the fair sites the last few days, but also gotten to help out behind the scenes.
The Monday of the fair, Raposa helped move flowers around the fairgrounds, since Kate Rink helps with the landscaping at the fair, while Tuesday he helped remove trash from the fairgrounds. He’s also helped set up chairs for concerts.
He has taken time to enjoy the fair’s offerings too, going on some of the rides and trying out a variety of foods. He especially liked the Dairy Feeder Steer Clubs’ haystacks, but he really wants to try eating the Kiwanis’ one-pound burger before the week is through, he said Wednesday, July 24. Seeing the variety of animals, especially the llamas, has also been a highlight for Raposa.
“This was my first time seeing llamas,” he said.
The fair reminds him somewhat of carnivals in the D.R.
“I really like it,” he said.
Wednesday morning, Raposa also got to experience the fair in a way only a handful of people do — from the sky
Raposa was able to be part of a group that lifted off in a hot air balloon at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
“It’s gentle,” Raposa said about rising up in a balloon. “You don’t feel the wind. It’s very peaceful.”
He also said he was fine with being high up in the air.
Coming to the U.S. also wasn’t that difficult for him.
“Leaving my family behind was the worst part,” he said.
He had been to New York City before, though the main difference from New York to here is seeing “fields and fields of crops.”
While the week has brought a lot of new experiences Raposa’s way, he said it’s been nice to also see several people around the fair who have done mission work with his parents.