PONTIAC, Ill. — Mary Vaughan was just a few years removed
from being a 4-H member herself when she got an offer she couldn’t refuse.
“There was a lady in town and she came to me, I was 23 years
old, and said, ‘We have eight girls in Forrest who belong to the Pleasant Ridge
4-H Club and if we have that many I think we should have a club of our own and
you should be the leader because you don’t have anything else to do,’” Vaughan
said. “I love to tell that story.”
She started the Forrest Ladybugs 4-H Club. When boys wanted
to join, the club was renamed the Forrest Fireflies, a group still soaring with
more than 50 members under her leadership 40 years later.
The Forrest resident was working in the office at the recent
Livingston County Agricultural Fair and 4-H Show, making announcements on the
fairground intercom, collecting fair king and queen ballots, answering questions
and performing countless other duties while enjoying every minute of it.
Vaughan added to her 4-H duties 26 years ago as a director
of the Livingston County Agricultural Fair Association, one cap she removed at
the end of this year’s fair.
“The fair board meetings are just too much. I live in
Forrest, and I work in Pontiac. That’s probably one of the reasons I stayed on
as long as I did because I’m in town. But the meetings go until 10 at night, and
then I have to drive home to Forrest; that makes for a long day,” she
“Plus, I can’t move garbage cans and clean stalls and stuff
like that. I just felt like I wanted to step down and focus more time on just
being a 4-H leader.”
“She will be a big loss to our board. She’s a big
contributor to the grounds-keeping, and she does the Ag Olympics, which I think
she’s going to keep doing,” said Rick Tucker of Odell, fair association
“Also, I’ve been on with her for 12 years, and on work days,
she’s always been in charge of the food, so we’ll also miss her on that part of
it, too. She’s been real good to everybody on the board, and it will be a loss
with her not on the board.”
One of her many jobs included grounds and
“Every flower that I have in my yard at home is over here
this week because I’m here so I can take care of them here,” Vaughan said. “This
year, the master gardeners helped me out, and we did the area around the gate.
That’s one thing that I can do, but there always comes a time when you need to
While she won’t need to attend all those late-night meetings
and be a part of those countless hours of behind-the-scenes work the directors
do throughout the year in preparation for the fair, she’ll continue to be a
regular at the annual gathering in her role as club leader.
“I don’t think much is going to change other than the fact
that I’m probably not going to be working in the office, but yet I told the guys
that if they need help I’m always available. I just won’t be here every day, and
I’m probably going to miss that, but it’s fine to step down,” she said.
Vaughan’s dedication to 4-H was recognized with accolades
from her peers over the past two years.
She was inducted into the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame last
year, and earlier this year she was among the recipients of the Friend of
Illinois County Fairs by the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs.
She quickly deflects the honors.
“I’ve had some great recognition in the last couple of
years, but it’s not about that — it’s about the kids. That’s my ultimate joy,”
Vaughan said. “I love 4-H, and I get as much enjoyment out of watching my
“I have a great club, I have 53 kids and I have wonderful
parents that are always there to help us out. I get as much enjoyment there as I
do the fair, but then the fair is the ultimate thing.”
The 4-H motto is, “To make the best better.” Vaughan has and
continues to do that after 40 years.