LOGANSPORT — For 71-year-old Madonna Peterson, the best part about the county fair is the watermelon.
“I could eat this all night,” she said Friday, forking at chunks of her second watermelon slice.
In her younger years, Peterson entered several items into the county fair, including items she’d sewn. But Peterson hasn’t been to the county fair for at least a decade.
Her friend Jean Fowler, 86, said she remembered thinking the fish sandwiches were the best food at the fair. She last visited the Cass County Fair four years ago, the summer before she began living at Chase Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
The women were two of 35 to 40 Chase Center residents and their family members who celebrated the center’s third annual “Our Own County Fair” Friday night with fair food, a visit from the Cass County Fair queen and her court and videos of fair happenings.
Heads of wheat stood up from small table centerpieces as the queen and court served a fair-style supper and root beer to the diners. A video of the tractor pull played while residents ate and the setting sun cast a faint orange glow through the center’s community room windows.
Another resident, Doreen Freeman, said she appreciated seeing the fair queen and court dressed up for the occasion. Their high heels were particularly gratifying.
“I haven’t had on heels in three years,” Freeman said. “I haven’t been able to wear shoes in three years so I love seeing the girls wear their heels.”
Freeman, dressed up for the occasion in a bright red blouse and matching hat, was joined by her husband, Joe Freeman. She’s never been to the county fair. Joe has been just once.
“I think it’s wonderful that they do this for the residents, that they expose them to the things going on at the fair,” Joe said between bites of corn dog and cheese puffs.
Nineteen-year-old Kristi Berlet, first runner-up in the queen’s pageant, said her great-grandmother resided in a nursing home, so she understood the appreciation residents felt for the visit.
“It’s a great opportunity to come and serve the residents and their families in their own county fair,” Berlet said. “I know she would appreciate anybody taking the time to serve her.”
Once residents and family members finished their corn dogs and watermelon, the queen and court served up bowls of strawberry shortcake. Then Chase Center activities director Susan Smith announced the names of all the residents who had received certificates for participating in some of the center’s 25 activities last week, á la recognition night at the county fair.
The queen and court also answered impromptu questions in a recreation of the Miss Cass County pageant and helped hand out door prizes at the conclusion of the event.
“The girls’ service doesn’t end when the fair ends,” said pageant director Grace Scott.
And visiting Chase Center’s fair allows the queen and court to serve a group of senior citizens, in contrast to their service at the fair, where they mostly bond with children.
Smith, herself a former 10-year 4-H’er and active Miami County Fair volunteer, said the fair was one of four annual events held at the center. Besides those events, residents are encouraged to take part in more frequent outings, like shopping and eating out.
“It’s important in a nursing facility to bring whatever there is out in the community into the facility so there’s still a good quality of life for the residents,” she said.
As Fowler finished her corn dog, she said she enjoyed Chase Center’s own county fair.
“It’s my residence now,” she said. “It’s the only place I can live. It gives us something to look forward to.”
• Sarah Einselen is a staff reporter for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or email@example.com.