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updated: 7/28/2017 10:43 AM

DuPage County Fair a family tradition for 3 generations of 4-H alumni

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  • Three generations of women -- grandmother Marilyn Goodrich, granddaughter Sia Paganis and daughter Bonnie Paganis -- have strong ties to the DuPage County Fair in Wheaton and the Carol Stream 4-H club, the Whirlybirds.

      Three generations of women -- grandmother Marilyn Goodrich, granddaughter Sia Paganis and daughter Bonnie Paganis -- have strong ties to the DuPage County Fair in Wheaton and the Carol Stream 4-H club, the Whirlybirds.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Marilyn Goodrich is the popular goat superintendent in one of the barns at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton.

    Marilyn Goodrich is the popular goat superintendent in one of the barns at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton.
    Courtesy of Bonnie Paganis

 
 

It's easy to shoot the breeze with folks who work long hours at the DuPage County Fair, but there's one really good conversation starter.

Ask them to reminisce about their fondest memories from the fair and most longtime volunteers start talking. And it's easy to stick to that topic, given the theme -- "Making Memories" -- of the fair that continues through Sunday at 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.

So in honor of that sentiment, we asked three generations of women from one family to reflect on their traditions at the fair. And sure enough, they had plenty to say.

Marilyn Goodrich

Fair bio: The 89-year-old is the family matriarch, and she's something of a celebrity at the Wheaton fairgrounds.

"If somebody yells 'grandma,' I usually answer," Goodrich said.

For six decades, she's been a leader of 4-H. It's her "pleasure" to host kids who raise their show animals -- goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks -- at her farm on Trails End Road in an unincorporated area near Carol Stream. The club, called the Whirlybirds, meets twice a month.

"It isn't this dreadful competition," she said. "I'm not thrilled with somebody having to be better than anybody else. They can all be just as good and work just as hard as the next guy."

She's holding court this week in one of the fair's barns. Both Goodrich and her granddaughter, Sia Paganis, are the goat superintendents.

They oversee show competitions and make sure 4-H kids complete their barn chores by 10 p.m. The duo also keeps a close eye on the antics of the mischievous animals. The goats have individual personalities, and they've been known to try to steal lemons out of lemonade.

"They're trouble," Goodrich said. "They're strictly trouble."

Favorite memories: "Sometimes it's hard to find other people in this day and age to sit and talk about goats. Nobody cares," Goodrich said. "Get out there, and everybody all talks about the same thing. I think that's one of the joys of being out here."

Bonnie Paganis

Fair bio: Goodrich's daughter raised sheep and horses through 4-H and entered her first show at the fair in 1961. The 63-year-old now serves a far higher-profile role as the treasurer of the fair association board. She also heads the fair's agricultural division.

"Once the fair gets in your blood, that's it," Bonnie Paganis said. "It is just such a cool experience. And yes, it was a part of my childhood, but it's a part of every year since then."

Favorite memories: Bonnie Paganis reminisces about the camaraderie with kids in other 4-H clubs.

"We just became this very close-knit bunch of friends," she said. "And we had adventures all over the fairgrounds, went to see the rodeo and went to see all the different exhibits."

But tending to their animals was always their first priority.

"It teaches the value of follow through," she said of 4-H. "You have to finish what you start. One of the important things is that the animals need to be cared for every single day no matter how you feel."

And when you get worn out?

"We would actually sleep in the pens with our animals, just taking a nap."

Sia Paganis

Fair bio: A Whirlybirds alum and a goat superintendent with her grandmother.

Favorite memories: "When I was a kid running around with my 4-H friends, it was like our favorite week of the whole summer," the 40-year-old said. "We looked forward to it. We would cry when it was over."

Her 14-year-old son, Oli Barraclough, continues the family legacy and cares for goats and sheep at his great-grandmother's farm. The teen also is lending his young Cheviot lambs for a sheep shearing demonstration by another product of the Whirlybirds, Amanda Manley.

Seeing Oli and his older brother enjoy the same experiences are proud moments for their mom.

"And so my kids get to do this," she said. "They get to do the same thing and have fun."

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