Fair Parade end of the line for both Edwards, Bingham

Monday, July 22, 2013
Dorothy Edwards (right) takes the microphone from Jinsie Bingham to tell parade-goers Friday night's event will be her last time in charge of the annual procession. Bingham, meanwhile, is also stepping down from her role in announcing the units to both the live and radio audiences.

When the jaunty and colorful Volkswagen Brigade signaled the conclusion of another Putnam County Fair Parade Friday night, it also marked the end of an era.

Two local women, synonymous with the fair parade since 1970, took the opportunity to say goodbye to their roles in the procession down Washington Street that signals the start of the annual fairgrounds extravaganza.

Dorothy Edwards, who has chaired the Putnam County Fair Parade on and off (but mostly on) since the early days, and Jinsie Bingham, whose voice has described the action on radio and in person with rare exception since 1970, are both calling it quits.

"Jinsie originally said she was not going to do it this year," Edwards said, "but I told her, 'Jinsie, you promised me as long as I stayed you would stay.'"

So Bingham agreed to do one last voice of the fair parade gig with son Doug Wokoun at her side as "faithful spotter and assistant."

When Edwards told her committee on Wednesday that this would be the end of the fair parade line for her, Bingham knew she would be joining her in retirement at procession's end.

But Bingham couldn't resist spreading the word herself, even as some of the first units were passing the reviewing stand on the Mason Temple lawn. As a Greencastle fire truck rolled by with Fire Chief Bill Newgent at the wheel, Bingham told the crowd downtown that she had already asked to ride in the fire truck during next year's parade since this would be her last year at the microphone.

"It really has been an honor to have been a part of it," Bingham said, calling the parade "such a wonderful representation of all elements of Greencastle and Putnam County."

Edwards couldn't agree more, noting that the Putnam County Fair Parade is "probably the largest 4-H parade in the state."

And it all started, she said, to set us apart from other county fairs. In the 1960s and 1970s, Indiana county fairs competed to be the champion fair as chosen by the Association of County Fairs.

"We kept getting runner-up," Edwards recalled, "something like four years in a row before (parade organizer) Wayne Hopkins and some others decided we needed to do something to put us over the top."

Thus, the Putnam County 4-H Fair Parade was born in 1969, showcasing the talents of local bands, visiting Shriners by the carload, pretty fair queen candidates and exposing the masses to such popular attractions as the Chadd Brothers' bucking car, the Purdue University locomotive and the Indiana University calliope.

Celebrities often rode along as parade marshals, including actor Ken Berry of "Mayberry RFD" fame, IU basketball star Ted Kitchel, Indiana's first Miss Basketball Judi Warren, a host of area TV news and weather people until it just got too expensive to afford a parade marshal from the outside.

In the early years of the parade, the Putnam County Fair was finally deemed the best in the state. A large trophy used to be on display in the Community Building but Edwards believes it has been stored away in the attic now. Regardless, the parade is still No. 1 with her.

"It's been a thrill to have done it," Edwards said. "Being able to see it all come together when you think maybe it's not going to happen is still exciting."

Proudly, she says Putnam County has never had to cancel a fair parade, although raindrops have fallen on a few processions now and then. The soggiest was probably 1979 when the parade was still a Sunday afternoon staple that followed the queen contest that opened fair activities the night before.

Edwards said she has chaired the parade "a long time," although she quit a couple times, only to be lured back again and again when things weren't run as smoothly as before.

"This time I think we have someone who will do a good job with it," she said, naming former Greencastle Mayor Nancy Michael as her successor for 2014.

Edwards' husband Gerald, of course, has been a longtime Fair Board member and former president. He retired from the Fair Board last year, so Dorothy considered it good timing to finish up now.

"It's hard to give it up," she acknowledged, adding that it doesn't mean she won't be visiting the Horse Barn and other old familiar fairgrounds haunts.

"Oh, you'll see me," she assured.

Rest assured the same will be true of Bingham.

"I was iffy about getting out of it last year," the voice of Putnam County said, noting she has been absent from the reviewing stand only twice before -- once to attend a conference and another time when she rode in the parade as Citizen of the Year.

Incidentally, the first year of the parade in 1969, the narration was provided by Dave Ruiz of then-WXTA, Bingham said.

She lauded Edwards' efforts, saying she "has the patience of a saint" for tackling the "gargantuan task that it is to put all that together."

"We had a little bit of everything in that parade," Bingham said of Friday night's event, pausing to muse about her final effort. "I called people by their parents' names and grandparents' names, I think. So it's time to say goodbye.

"Besides that, I've already asked if I could ride in the fire truck," she laughed. " I'll have to see what kind of pull I really have as a City Council member."

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  • Jinsie is actually the citizen of the century. How many of you remember her dad's little restaurant on the North side of the square?

    -- Posted by donantonioelsabio on Mon, Jul 22, 2013, at 12:02 PM
  • She has put into Greencastle far more than she ever took. What if everyone left the campsite better than they found it.. following Jinsie's example.

    -- Posted by conffool on Mon, Jul 22, 2013, at 1:47 PM
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