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They "keep coming back for more'

David LaPerle, 51, was born in Vermont. His family moved to Citrus County when he was 6 years old. That means the Hernando resident has almost been here long enough to call himself a native Floridian.

His wife, Brenda, 51, is. Born Brenda Ogle in Ocala _ "There was no hospital in Citrus County" _ she has lived in Citrus County all her life.

David LaPerle isn't sure how long he's been involved with the county fair. But Mrs. LaPerle recalls that she was pregnant with their son, Travis, "so it had to be about 20 years ago."

" "Monkey' Hagar called and asked me if I would like to be on the fair board," said LaPerle. "I didn't know anything about the board, but I've been involved ever since."

LaPerle was also president of the fair board five times.

"I was kind of dumb," he said, tongue-in-cheek. "I had to keep going back for more."

LaPerle and his wife are fixtures at the county fair. Their names appear annually in the list of committee chairmen. He's involved with the commercial exhibits committee and the tractor show and pull. She likes the horticulture and the historian committees and has helped with the Miss Teen and Miss Citrus scholarship pageants and both have been involved with the livestock portion.

LaPerle's businesses, LaPerle Crane Service, LaPerle Granite and Marble Works, and LaPerle Memorials, are a short distance from the fairgrounds.

"I'm too close to the fairgrounds," he said.

LaPerle is often the first person fair manager Jean Grant calls when a need arises.

Grant recalled an occasion involving an elephant, a garbage truck and a septic tank.

"We had an elephant on the property that year. The truck that was hired to remove its waste couldn't get through on the road because of all the booths. He went around them, over the grass," she explained. "The lid of the tank broke and he went in.

"I had to get it out of there before we opened in a couple hours," said Grant. "David brought a crane over and literally lifted it out, with only a little time to spare before we had to open the gates."

Then there was the no-name storm in 1993. High winds destroyed the $450,000 Sky Diver ride and LaPerle and his crane were summoned again.

While both express great admiration for the other, at times LaPerle and Grant seem to mix like the proverbial oil and water.

LaPerle admits that, "Jean and I fight like cats and dogs. I tell her what I want. She tells me what she wants. We argue a little and yell a little ... and then we get it done!"

Mrs. LaPerle has chaired several committees over the years, but her favorite is still the horticulture committee.

"I just like to show imagination (in decorating the horticulture exhibits) and have it be peaceful and friendly, and have a nice feeling when people come in or leave," she said.

Her artistic hand can also be spotted in the exhibit buildings where empty spaces are soon adorned with seating arrangements. She often pays for the flowers.

Mrs. LaPerle's fondest memories go back to her own childhood when she participated in 4-H events at the fair and just "coming to the fair."

The LaPerle's have two children: Dawn, 25 and Travis, 19. In August Dawn will give birth to their first grandchild. Mrs. Laperle looks forward to introducing the child to the county fair.

Is there a future for the county fair in a community growing so fast and becoming more urban than agricultural?

"I hope so," said LaPerle. "I'm afraid to say what might happen though, if we don't get more land. We need more space or we're going to be in trouble. The fair can only get so big and we're just about maxed out."

But he proudly points to the fact that in Citrus County, "we can have 40 steers (competing) and we're basically a retirement community."

He noted that Sumter County, an agricultural community, had less than half that many at its fair.

Mrs. LaPerle's concerns are more with the community.

"We need to have more community involvement from the west side of the county. It's a community fair," she said.

Both cited the need for more volunteers.

"There's plenty of stuff they can do," said LaPerle. "There's no excuse not to get involved."

Mrs. LaPerle is proud of the scholarship opportunities for young people: in the Miss Citrus and Miss Teen Citrus Pageants, in the livestock arena and now in the Youth World area.

"The fair provides an education in so many ways for the children, with the possibility to get scholarships for college," said Mrs. LaPerle. "And that's important, because they are our tomorrow."

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