(Editor’s note: On Sunday, a brief ceremony was conducted at the Champaign County Fairgrounds. The ceremony dedicated a new building in the memory of a man who was a fixture on the fairgrounds for the past five decades before his passing in January. By all accounts, it was a ceremony that would have suited him well: Dignified, straightforward, a minimum of fuss. Below are the remarks given by Judge Brett Gilbert in dedicating the building, written by Emily Cook. No poor scribe could hope to improve on the heartfelt and sincere words that flowed from Ms. Cook’s pen, nor should one try, so I offer this transcript which was courteously provided to me and which I now share with you. It paints a picture of a beloved man in several paragraphs that I could not hope to capture in as many volumes. – Tom Stephens)
Today we dedicate this Junior Fairboard Building to the memory of Melvin Cook. There was no other man more dedicated to the Champaign County Fair. He was a 4-H advisor for 47 years, on the Fairboard 37 years, and was Fairboard president for 13 years. Through these years, Melvin was instrumental in countless projects. As he worked on these projects, Melvin always focused on the 4-H and FFA members. One of his proudest accomplishments was helping to reform the Junior Fairboard in 2001. Melvin truly enjoyed working with the Junior Fairboard members, as he was a past member himself. Anything to get the kids more involved, he was in favor of.
A Junior Fairboard Building is an idea Melvin would have loved. This building is just another project he would have supported and helped out with as much as he could. But like the other countless projects, he would have never wanted recognized or his name on it. And that is exactly why we feel it needs to be. Melvin was one that never needed or wanted recognized for his hard work, but he deserves it more than anyone, and that is why we are recognizing and honoring him in the best way we know how.
Melvin’s family and Fairboard are overjoyed with how this building has turned out thus far. Also, it could not be in a better location than next to Goddard Park. Melvin thought the world of Elizabeth; probably the only person as dedicated to this fair as him. Junior Fairboard members – we need your dedication as well. This fair community is counting on you, like they always counted on Melvin. Whether it was a project that needed more funds, a new showman that needed help finding buyers at the sale, mulch that needed spreading, a phone call that no one else had time for. It wasn’t just the money spent, but the time and labor he gave freely to this fair community. It deeply touches his family to see all of these things given back to Melvin after his years of service. He would be truly honored to see so many people giving their time, labor, or money to this project. Whether you wrote a check, hammered a nail, or just stopped by to share a memory with the family – thank you.
Melvin’s family is so very grateful for this building, and even more grateful for all of the people who made its formation possible. Melvin’s family most definitely fell broken when they lost him. But like so many other families, their friends and this community have helped them. The family would like to thank everyone for their support and their amazing efforts to honor such a special man – Melvin Cook.