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Fair president has seen it all

By Staff | Jul 20, 2010

Jack Smith and handyman John Gautch tour the grounds at the Lycoming County fairgrounds in Hughesville.

HUGHESVILLE – The soot, the sawdust, the sounds, the aromas in the air, all that’s connected with the fair that runs through Jack Smith’s veins. Smith is one of a few remaining persons synonymous with the annual Lycoming County Fair.

Many identify Smith with the poultry department and the barn named in honor of his late father, Clifton Smith and his dad’s friend and dentist, the late Dr. Paul Siebert. These were some of the showmen carrying on the grand tradition of a poultry club from which the fair had its beginnings.

Jack’s early years were spent not only with chicks at this fair but he traveled with his dad’s group competitively entering show birds at many fairs.

As Jack aged, the cluck of chicks gave way to the roar of sprint car motors when he became part of the crew with local sprint car owner, Carl Secules. “I traveled up and down the eastern seaboard with Carl and his mechanics Albert Pfleeger, Tom Campbell and Ben Narbor,” Smith said. A race he remembers includes Wellsville, New York where the purse was $80 for first place.

“I’d watch my first race at age five from the these Lycoming County Fair bleachers but sprint car racing ceased at Hughesville in 1948 but started up again after the war,” Smith said.

About 1969 Smith became involved in photography, capturing for posterity many events including auto races, golf tournaments and stars in the entertainment world. He has albums showcasing many famous people he has met.

“I love going to Indianapolis in May and talking to Rob Gunn, Lloyd Ruby, Rick Mears, and Jimmy Johnson. I love races at the Pocono’s too. I’ve done volunteer photo work for the Blaise Alexander Golf tournament as well,” Smith said.

Currently Smith and wife Dorothy are occupied with the business end of the fair. “Plans for the next year begin the next Monday after locking up the gates Saturday night,” Smith said.

In January, the Smiths will be among many state fair officials converging at Hershey to book shows for next year.

These days Smith can be found checking to be certain all is going well as he wheels around the grounds and parking lots in a white golf cart. He won’t be sprinting, but he will be on the move, for presiding over the Lycoming County Fair is a big job.