BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - "I've got several videos we've taken over the year..."
Cliff Barton is on a city-parish computer trying to navigate at work. He works in Human Resources at 1755 Florida Street. The government security measures won't let him play videos, but he can show pictures.
"These are some of our Fair Board folks."
This is the website for the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair. It also features pics from the washed out recent Greater Baton Rouge State Fair last year.
"We took it on the chin last year," Barton sighs.
Barton is the face you see over and over on 9News telling you that the fair has to be closed due to bad weather. It happens every several years.
Barton was commander of the shovel brigade that spread sand and pebbles every day. They managed to open for several days by filling the puddles with sand and opening the gates. This is South Louisiana and a little rain never turned away many crowds.
Turns out, Barton has been volunteering since day one of the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair.
"I had a cousin who joined the B.R. Jaycees back in 1972," he explains, "And he asked me the next week to come to a meeting and I did, and I joined. The next meeting he left and I stayed."
The Jaycees carried the fair for years, raised the money to buy the fairgrounds on Airline Highway. (the grounds now owned by the City of Baton Rouge and managed by BREC) Barton has worked every fair since the first. He remembers the first fair, there being a line of traffic trying to get in all the way down Airline Highway. It was immediately popular.
He was part of the group of former Jaycees who created a Fair Foundation when the Jaycees got out of the fair business. The money raised by the fair funds all kinds of charity projects.
"One of our biggest is St. Vincent de Paul. We sponsor Uniforms for Kids every year. And every year we present a check at Channel 9."
I muffle my cheers, but I can't help it, the $15,000 check the Foundation delivers every year is vital to the Uniforms for Kids drive. But the Foundation also supports BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, burn units at hospitals.
There's a complete list on the fair's website.
In 1980, Barton helped design a mascot for the fair, a spoof on Jean Lafitte, Jean LaFair.
But he does Fair office work. He gets on the phone and lobbies for donations and deals. But he rolls up his sleeves and helps pack and unpack the fair. He manages the rides, the concerts, the fried Oreos and cheesecake balls.
His passion for this charity spans decades. And it looks a lot like work.
"There is a lot of work involved. It is a year-round job. Because I go home and my wife will tell you that she doesn't see a lot of me because I'm in there in my office doing stuff on the computer and making phone calls and whatever. I do it because I love it. It's fun!"