The Dart: Exchange Club fair returns for 71 year

Published 4:37 pm Sunday, July 23, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Thursday night is the weekly meeting for the Brookhaven Exchange Club at Exchange Club Park but this week people gathered in an effort to get everything up and running before the fair. Bill Haag was practically born at the fair and has spent every year since he was born at the park, close to where The Dart landed. 

Haag’s father was one of the founding members of the Brookhaven club which started in 1947. The club held a rodeo the first few years but the traditional exchange club fair started in 1952 and Haag was born the next year in 1953. 

His mom would bring him to the fair and as he grew older he would start to help his father. He said the exchange club really wanted a park and built a train in a shop, laid the track by hand and bent the rails by using cars and tree trunks. 

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Booths were made with pipe or spare lumber and sheeted out with cardboard boxes from the appliance store. Each booth was family run and if it rained they would need new cardboard for the booths. 

“Now we have booths that can be sponsored by businesses. Pavilions can be rented for reunions or parties and we will run the rides if they want to ride them,” Haag said. “It takes a lot to keep this park running. The businesses doing the booths are a Godsend. This has always been a gathering place before school starts back.” 

Haag looked out from the pavilion at the old swing and ferris wheel. He said as a kid he rode most of the rides. The park was different back then. There was no fence nor fear of any trouble although the park’s security has improved over the years. 

Brookhaven Exchange Club charges a $5 gate fee for people older than 4 years old and younger than 55 years old. Everyone needs to buy an armband to ride the rides. 

Membership in the club has dwindled over the years. A speech including history on the club suggested they had close to 90 members in 2007. The club is now down to 29 active members and are looking for new, and young, members to join, Haag said. 

Exchange Club Fair is a Brookhaven tradition and has been ingrained in him. He said one time he went on a church camp trip as a kid and people started asking what dads did for work. 

“I would ask kids what ride their dad ran at the fair. My dad did that for years,” Haag said. “The kids didn’t know what I was talking about. I thought every town had a fair in it. Turns out it is a unique thing.” 

Haag spends a lot of time working with the exchange club and currently serves as the treasurer. Each evening he sets out on his 1 acre pond and fishes from a boat. He said he tells his wife he may not catch many fish out there but he always gets good casting practice. 

The fair is July 27 to July 29 and August 3 to August 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. The final week of preparation is one of the busiest times for the club. Haag said they could not get things done without the unnoticed work of people. 

Exchange club member Jim Phillips, who was featured in The Dart before, has worked to trim limbs and branches allowing for better visibility and security around the park this week. A good samaritan who asked to not be named has provided welding services this week, Mike Walley said. Walley’s brother Don was featured in The Dart this February

“We have a lot of people who donate stuff to us because of what it is,” Walley said.

Brookhaven Exchange Club’s youngest member is 13 year old CJ Perron. He helps as a grease monkey working on the maintenance of the rides. His grandmother Margaret Glass was the first woman voted into the club. She has helped at the fair though for the last 30 years. 

“I was involved with it for the Relay for Life,” Glass said. “It helps the people of Brookhaven have something to do. We need more folks to join us.”