Burns Family Legacy

From left to right, Kenneth, John, Chuck and Glenn Burns are all pictured together. For more than 100 years the Burns family has helped Crawford County farmers and helped grow the rich tradition of draft horses at the fair.

By Garrett Dvorkin

Herald Staff Reporter

Every year the Crawford County Pomona Grange awards the Agricultural Hall of Fame and Ag-Industry awards that are given to county individuals, families and organizations that have left their mark on both the Crawford County Fair and the agricultural industry.

This year’s inductees and recipients are; Kenneth and Phyllis Carr and the Burns Family legacy, who were selected to receive Hall of Fame awards, and the Crawford CountyDairy Princess Committee, awarded as part of the Ag-Industry award.

Recipients proved through their hard work and dedication what the fair is about — agriculture and helping neighbors build a sense of community.

Kenneth and Phyllis Carr are two individuals who have attended all 75 Crawford County fairs. Since that first fair, the two have dedicated their life to helping the fair grow, and have been integral in its operation.

Since they were little, seven or eight years old, they have done just about everything in relation to the fair including directing portions of the fair, announcing, participating and helping their children compete.

Phyllis remembers being in the old grand stands for a show at the first fair, while Kenneth remembers riding race horses around the ring from an early age.

Kenneth was chairman of the Fair Saddle Horse and Pony Department for 34 years, before his daughter took over and he moved to vice-chairman. Both have also been key pieces of local 4-H activity.

Ken was a charter member of the Blooming Valley 4-H Dairy Club. Phyllis, as a kid, was a member of the Coons Corners 4-H Club. When her kids were old enough to do 4-H activities, she reorganized the club, which had not been active for many years.

Phyllis is currently the Chairman of the Crawford County Fair’s 75th Anniversary Committee. Both are members of the Fair Saddle Horse and Pony Department Hall of Fame, and have too many other accomplishments to list.

The fair has not only helped them connect with their community, but connect with each other. Back when they were senior showmen, they were the last two competitors in the dairy cow competition.

After nothing could split them, they were asked to swap animals. As Kenneth was the first to offer his lead-line to Phyllis, he was named winner for being a true gentleman.

Five years after that, they were married. He got two trophies that day, one being his wife. They still have that trophy today.

The fair, a family affair

Kenneth Carr (left) and his wife, Phyllis, stand with the same trophy that brought them together years ago. The two are being honored for their work not only with horses at the fair, but also a life of dedication to agriculture in Crawford County.

The two raised their family around agriculture. They talk about the fair as “one big family affair.” Their kids and grandkids all have participated in the fair, and said it has “become a big part of our life.”

“It’s a privilege,” said Kenneth regarding the Hall of Fame award. His wife said that when they found out, they “were speechless.”

She said it is nice to have recognition, but that they never expected it. “Everything we are being honored for,” said Phyllis, “We did because we loved doing it.”

Also honored is the Burns Family legacy. For generations, the Burns family not only helped grow the draft horse tradition of the fair, but helped the entire community haul animals to various events.

When talking about the Burns family and all they have done for agriculture in the community, the story starts with Kenneth and Glenn. Over a century ago Kenneth and Glen, affectionately called the Burns brothers, started helping with the draft horses that pulled the trolley from Meadville to the Fountain House.

Since then, the family has been heavily involved with draft horses both at the fair and in the county, with that connection lasting generations. The brothers moved to a farm that they worked together. They bought a team of draft horses, and the rest is history.

While most of the local farmers had their teams of horses, the equipment was hard to come by. Farmers would use what they needed, then drop off the equipment at the next farm. That sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors persisted with the brothers, and was passed down to their kids.

Kenneth eventually became involved with butchering and bought his first cattle truck. That truck let him haul both meat and animals to auctions as far as Pittsburgh. Other local farmers did not have the ability to transport their animals, so he helped the farmers.

Kenneth would also use that cattle truck to help transport 4-H and FFA members’ animals to shows, free of charge.

The Herald spoke with three of Kenneth’s granddaughters, Sandy Boyd, Debbie Curry and Peggy Johnson. They said he hauled the animals as “something to do to help the kids.”

The brothers also set up the large horse pulling contest, an event that has attracted exhibitors from the tri-state area for decades. That allowed a community of farmers to appreciate the animals, and also a place to barter and sell their stock.

The girls’ father, John, eventually took over the family business, and continued hauling 4-H and FFA animals for kids. Together, they hauled animals for more than 100 years.

John made sure his kids were involved in 4-H, and instilled the importance of agriculture and community in his family. “It was our way of life, our whole family was dedicated to agriculture,” said Sandy.

John’s son, Chuck, was the next man in line to continue the Burns family legacy. After being drafted in 1972, life took Chuck away from the family farm.

Even though he might have been out of sight, he never lost interest in agriculture. Chuck was eventually drawn back to the area, and he and his daughter became involved again. He was eventually named department chairman.

The family legacy is part of what drew him back. The sister’s said so much of their family’s life was tied into those draft horses. That impact only grew when their brother tragically died in 2017, during an accident when a team of horses were spooked.

Remembering their brother, the sisters said, “He was a teaser, but would do anything for anyone” and “truly had a heart of gold.”

The Burns brothers started the family legacy, and that legacy came full circle.

It was not only the men in the family, but also the women behind those men that were dedicated to agriculture. When you live on a farm, according to the sisters, “there is always work to do.”

Their grandmother Althea, and Glenn’s wife, Myrtle were instrumental in getting the family to where it is today.

Althea managed the homestead while her husband was gone. Their mother, Gene, was the secretary at home taking calls while their father was out hauling animals. Chuck’s wife, Susan was also instrumental in the resurgence of the draft horse portion of the fair.

The Burns family is one that is humble, and always ready to help a farmer or kid in need. The sisters said that their father, grandfather and brother would have been humbled and honored to be recognized, although “they never would have expected recognition.”

They said the men were unselfish, knew the struggles of farmers, “and always helped whenever they could.” You can’t mention draft horses at the county fair without the Burns family.

The third award is the Ag-Industry Award, this year given to the Crawford County Dairy Princess Committee.

The committee was established in 1973 by David and Kaye Slusser, Charles and Joan Black, Wayne and Jesie Stainbrook, John and Cindi Kunz and Blaine Schlosser, Crawford County Extension Director.

Over the 49 years of existence, the committee has guided and directed young ladies in Crawford County, instilling them with confidence, poise, strength and knowledge of the dairy industry.

According to a release from the Crawford County Pomona Grange, any girl who has participated will say how much it meant to them, how much they learned and the contacts they made over the years. It was also noted that it is some really hard work.

The first ever Crawford County Dairy Princess was Ruth Stein, who was crowned in 1973. Almost 50 years later, the mission has stayed the same, to “Tell Our Dairy Story.”

The dairy princess program is not just about the crowning event, it takes work and dedication from the ladies all year long.

Through the sacrifices and long days with their animals, all of those honored this year will tell you that their work in promoting the fair and agriculture in the region means more than any award can convey.

Through their years of work, they have found community, family, a sense of hard work and dedication and even love.

The awards will be presented on Sunday, Aug. 15 at 2 p.m. The event will take place at the New Beginnings Church.

The awards program is administered by the Crawford County Pomona Grange. Nominations are gathered from agriculture related businesses and organizations, as well as former recipients of both awards.

Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.

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