Fair Parade Marshal Kenny Torr can share own ‘Blue Ribbon Memories’

Monday, July 17, 2017
Kenny Torr will ride in Friday’s Putnam County Fair parade as 2017 grand marshal. Torr and wife Beverly (left) were on hand for the announcement by Parade Committee Chairman Nancy Michael.
Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE

Blue Ribbon Memories ... that’s the theme of the 2017 Putnam County Fair Parade.

And Parade Grand Marshal Kenny Torr can certainly draw upon his many blue-ribbon memories when the floats and wagons and trucks and VW Beetles begin to roll down Washington Street Friday, starting at the “Y” intersection at 6:30 p.m. and reaching the reviewing stand downtown at approximately 7 p.m.

The 81-year-old Torr jokes that he’s in his “67th year of 4-H” after his own experience in the youth activity followed by his parental participation with his children and grandchildren.

Torr’s long association with the Putnam County Fair goes back to the days when it was still staged at Greencastle’s Robe-Ann Park as mostly an event showcasing cattle and other animals.

His first connection with the fair, Torr recalled, was showing calves in 1948.

“I was mostly into cattle,” he said, although he did show chickens one year as well. “Back then they didn’t have Electric and Photography (projects) and those sorts of things. It was mostly cattle.”

But that didn’t stop it from being eventful.

Torr is Putnam County’s first-ever Round-Robin Showmanship champion, perhaps the most sought-after honor up for grabs during the fair, for which they now award the enormous Thomas Hendricks Trophy.

But when Torr won it back in 1952, the victory was about more than showing rounds of beef, dairy, goats, sheep, horses and swine, it was also quite the triumph over Mother Nature.

“We finished it up during an electrical storm at Robe-Ann Park,” Torr recalled, noting that the storm knocked out power, so in order to complete the showmanship action on the softball diamond, cars and trucks drove up and ringed the field with their lights shining inward to provide illumination.

“I remember the fair moving to the fairgrounds, and my last cow at the park and my first cow at the fairgrounds,” Torr said, adding proudly, “and seeing the fairgrounds grow over the many years.“

Torr calls himself “an example of what 4-H can do” for a youngster.

He credits youth leaders Gene Akers and Kenny Harris with being mentors, praising “how influential they were” in his development, claiming opportunities evolved for him “because of two very excellent youth leaders. I can’t say enough about that.”

Wife Beverly, was a 10-year 4-H’er in her own right, and remembers winning the 4-H Dress Revue one year, breaking a stranglehold another local family had held on the competition.

Because of his occupation as a livestock auctioneer (40 years selling overall and 32 on his own), Torr has had the opportunity to be on the fairgrounds in many Indiana counties, and says, “Putnam County is right up there with the best of them.”

Torr is also quick to say that while honored to have been chosen as parade marshal for 2017, there are “many leaders and people in the background doing the work who are the ones who really deserve the credit.”

“The parade is actually the beginning,” he said. “But it’s the exhibits and shows that are the culmination of the kids’ work from one year to another. The fair lets them showcase their work.”

Whether you know Kenny Torr as a banker, farm magazine ad salesman, auctioneer, photographer or cattleman, he’s a sixth-generation Putnam County native. He and sister Carolyn Elliott own the family farm west of Greencastle although the ground is leased to others nowadays.

His family came to the area in 1821, Torr said, “looked around and may even have bought a little land.” They came back for good in 1828, migrating from Shelby County, Ky., by way of Virginia.

The son of John and Grace (Surber) Torr, he and wife Beverly have been married 61 years with three children -- twins John Torr of Lawrence and Jerry Torr, the state legislator from Carmel, and daughter Janet Jayne who resides in Greencastle.

“Farm kids were supposed to farm,” Torr said of his supposed destiny, noting he followed that path to Purdue, thinking he’d go home and farm when he graduated.

But a few days before he was to graduate, Harris, then the local ag agent, said First Citizens Bank President Joe Crosby wanted to know if Torr would be interested in banking.

“It was my first smell of working off the farm,” he recalled. “They offered me a job and I accepted, and I’m glad I did because I’d have broke my dad farming.”

He spent five years at the bank as ag representative, making appraisals and helping with loans while working into the job of assistant trust officer before moving on to advertising sales (to cattle companies) with Indiana Farmer, at that time the oldest farm magazine in the country.

But Torr’s efforts at the auction on the part of the magazine (working the ring for his advertising clients) proved to be his cup of tea and spawned a whole new career.

“Livestock sales in the auction ring have taken me to about 38 states,” Torr said, noting he has actually served as the auctioneer at sales in 10 different states.

He retired about 20 years ago, saying it “was getting to be work” and his legs and voice were giving out on him.

Torr may have retired from the road but still did some local sales for seven or eight years before “getting tired and pulling the plug on it.”

However, that only allowed his favorite avocation -- photography -- to take over. Ever since seventh grade when Greencastle ag adviser Akers first put him behind the lens and in the darkroom, Torr has had a camera in his hands.

And now he’s published a book of Putnam County barn photos, in a project that began on a whim. He had gotten ahold of a picture of the old round barn from John Zeiner and had taken a few interesting barn photos of his own when he took them to his coffee group one morning.

“Guys who drive by them (the barns) every day couldn’t identify them,” he said incredulously. “I thought, ‘This is kind of neat. I’ve got nothing else to do. Let’s take some barn photos.’”

While Torr said he doesn’t have a picture of every Putnam barn, “I’ll bet I have 90 percent of them,” he said.

It turned into a project, and the deeper Torr got into it, he said he “felt they needed to be saved for Putnam County posterity.”

So at one of Torr’s barn photo presentations he said he would love to see the project in book form but personally couldn’t afford to publish it on his own. That’s when a benefactor walked up and offered to help make it happen.

And now, any profit realized from the book is shared by the 4-H Livestock Scholarship (through the Putnam County Foundation) and the Putnam County Museum.

Besides photography a small Angus cow herd still keeps Torr busy.

“That’s kind of my pride and joy,” he said. “That’s where I vent. That’s my boat, my vacation to France ...”

While Torr will be at the front of the parade Friday, riding in the Chandler family carriage, in another parade development Tim Arnold will again be joining the route with his Haflinger horses and wagon carrying the Putnam County National Champion 4-H Horse Judging Team of Megan Arnold, Adie Clifford, Jessica Hays and Whitney Boswell.

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  • Excellent choice! Stay healthy Kenny. :>)

    -- Posted by gadsden on Mon, Jul 17, 2017, at 10:41 PM
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