WELLINGTON — Hazel Pitts slowly walked up to the stage in front of the Lorain County Fair Board office at the Lorain County Fairgrounds and gently grabbed the box wrapped with green paper and a gold bow.
Inside was a special gift from Elyria’s Vandemark Jewelers for Pitts, who was named this year’s Clair Hill Director’s Memorial Award honoree Monday. It is the same honor that her husband, Dorrell Pitts, received in 1976.
Pitts, 88, has been a fair supporter for almost 50 years. It became a part of her life in 1965 when her husband was elected to the board. She is the first spouse of a board member, past or current, to win the award.
“The fair has always truly been a family affair,” said Pitts, a mother of four children, grandmother to seven and great-grandmother to two. “It was a lot of work, but we made it work. We all pitched in and had a great time doing it. I don’t remember ever missing a fair.”
The Clair Hill Award is named in honor of a former fair board secretary who has been described as one of the most instrumental people in organizing Lorain County Fairs of yesteryear. It has been awarded since 1960 when Merritt Parker was the first recipient.
In recounting her fair history, Pitts, of Wellington Township, said she supported the fair in the best way she knew how — by supporting her husband. She and the kids would stay home milking the cows in the evening so her husband could complete his obligations as a fair board director.
“We were dairy farmers, now beef cattle farmers,” Pitts said. “When the kids were little, we packed a lunch and met Dorrell at noon to eat. We left the fair at 4 for chores.”
Pitts traveled the country to see other fairs and attended fair conventions with the goal of bringing the best ideas and practices back to Lorain County. In 1988, she helped to establish the Kiddie Pedal Pull for some of the youngest fairgoers.
Her husband passed away six years ago, yet she is a fixture at the fair.
“We’ve had a great fair life,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.”
Pitts still is active at the fair. She helped with the fair board elections Monday, plans to help at the tractor pull Friday and will definitely help with this year’s pedal pull.