Parade brings together old friends in Elkhart County 4-H Fair tradition

    A group of more than 40 people crowded on the corner of Madison and Main streets just before the start of the 4-H parade.

    Posted on July 21, 2014 at 4:00 a.m.

    A group of more than 40 people crowd on the corner of Madison and Main Street just before the step-off of the 4-H parade Sunday, July 20 — all 40 are wearing Hawaiian leis. Kevin Eyer is chatting with a friend when a young man catches his attention by yelling from the ATV Safety Club float.

    “Hey! Where is my money?”

    Eyer laughs and jumps up to run alongside the float, all while riffling through his wallet. He pulls out $40 and slaps it into the hand of the young man who is bent over laughing.

    Eyer hurries back to his seat. He explains he is the design lead for Essenhaus theater and had the young man fill in for one of the productions. He had told him he would pay him for his troubles.

    This banter between the sidelines and the parade is nothing new for Eyer and his friends. In fact they had been anticipating it since 8:30 a.m.

    Walking down Main Street in downtown Goshen the morning before the 4-H Fair parade is a ghost town of place-holding lawn chairs, aside from a few who come out to stake their claim in person.

    Eyer, Steve Lay and his brother, Rick Lay, have been equipped with lawn chairs and pop-up tables every parade Sunday for five years now. For Eyer it is a source of tradition and a window to the past. He recalls coming out to Main Street in Goshen at age 6 with his parents. They would drive a pickup truck out at 6 a.m., back it in so the kids could sit in the bed, return home to the farm to do chores then come back for the parade in the afternoon. Eyer, now a 26-year 4-H veteran, can’t remember a time when he didn’t come to the parade.

    “I have lived in this area my whole life and know so many people in it that go by, that is half the fun they yell at you, and you yell at them,” says Eyer. “We all wave at each other. It’s just fun.”

    The group began as just Eyer, Steve Lay and his wife. Now it has grown to four tents of people who crowd the corner. Eyer prides himself on making pulled pork every year, and they all boast of feeding and watering the parade as it passes.

    “We usually stop the parade about twice, with people jumping off to come and get food or us running it out to them,” says Eyer with a laugh.

    “We brought our own candy to throw back at (the parade) last year,” says Lay.

    Rick Lay travels from Illinois every year just to be with the rowdy corner group.

    “We all have those times where we say, ‘Oh, we should get together some time’ but you never do because everyone is so busy,” says Eyer. “So this is what we do have for that time that we all get together.”

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