Aquarium lures at fairgoers

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The Madden Hill Conservation Club of Hamilton Township was dissolved last December.

Dan Carpenter from Seymour was a member of the club for about 25 years and he believes the club was established long before that.

“We couldn’t find anyone who wanted to participate, and there were about five of us left, and most of us had been there for a while,” Carpenter said. “It’s like that in a lot of places, and nobody wants to volunteer anymore or do more than they already have on their plate, so we just decided to shut it down.”

The funds left to the club were approximately $4,500, which the club recently turned over to the Jackson County Conservation Board to help make the final payment for the fairgrounds aquarium.

“We used to attend the fair every year and help with the fish stand, fry the fish,” he said. “We just couldn’t get enough volunteers to run our club, and we tried for several years, but couldn’t get it off the ground.”

Carpenter said some of the money raised at the fish stand goes towards food plots that kids can go out and make for wildlife.

“We would go out and judge these and give them savings bonds for the winner and a smaller savings bond for second place and so on,” he said. “The conservation council is made up of several clubs in Jackson County, and they organize things there at the fair, and each club takes a day at the fish stand and cooks fish.”

Carpenter said the profits went to pay for the stand rental and electricity there, and a small percentage went back to the club for food plots. There were also education courses for hunters.

“We just wanted to give back to the board for everything they’ve done for each club over the years, and so we wanted to help them with that fish tank debt,” he said.

Carpenter said he would miss the volunteerism and camaraderie of the club, and he hoped to go to the fair and get a fish sandwich.

Types of fish in the aquarium are crappie, bass, catfish, sunfish, and sometimes carp. There are also turtles that locals have captured and brought to the fair for display.

At the Jackson County Conservation Council building on Thursday, Terry Ault of the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District had educational materials.

Justin Bierly of the U.S. Department of Agriculture also had a table in the building with information on the feral pig population, and Indiana Department of Natural Resources personnel tended glass tanks containing snakes.

Several members of the Norman Conservation Club took turns volunteering, frying fish and working at the stand on Thursday.

Jackson County Conservation Council officers Dick Clampitt, James Mills and Nancy Mills also assisted.

Clampitt, the chairman of the board, said Friday would be the Dudleytown club’s turn to volunteer and then today they would all pitch in to help.

“This aquarium was built about six years ago, and at that time we had to pay for it ourselves, and Peoples Bank was kind enough to give us a loan,” Clampitt said. “Every year after the fair we go down to the bank and make a payment, and each of the clubs come here to help with the stand every year, so they all helped pay for that.”

He said volunteers brought the fish and turtles to put them in the tank, and that James Mills’ father, Ed Mills, brought lots of fish every year.

“Anyone can bring a fish to have in the tank for the fair, and if they want to put it in a grandchild’s name, they can do that,” Clampitt said. “In September, we have a dinner party that we call a wild game supper, and we give these kids a certificate and a little trophy and take their pictures, which means a lot to them.”

James Mills, deputy chairman of the board, was a member of the folded Madden Hill Conservation Club.

“It was suggested that we use the rest of our money to make the final payment for the aquarium,” he said. “So this year we won’t have to go to the bank to make that payment.”

Nancy Mills said she has been secretary/treasurer of the board for about 17 or 18 years.

“We’re a nonprofit, and for the fair, we have to make sure the fish that are brought in are weighed, and we have to get people’s names,” Mills said. “The DNR works with snakes in the building. I have to order the food and make sure there are people here to volunteer every day, so it’s a lot of work.

She said that at one point there were about seven clubs on the council, but that number has gone down, and if they don’t involve the younger people there will be no more conservation clubs.

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