This year, while I'm looking forward to being in the barns come
Tuesday morning, it's also going to be a little bittersweet, because
the barn will be haunted with memories of a man who is no longer
with us, and I know that at the rabbit judging this year, there is
going to be a big hole for all of us.
Among those who were always in the foreground at the rabbit
judging was Wayne Coffey, co-superintendent. I remember Wayne well,
as a quiet but very pleasant man who walked about the arena area
visiting with the kids, asking them questions and making sure they
were prepared for the judging ahead of them.
In 2009, my first year of covering the fair, as I walked around
the barn, watching the kids set up their grooming tables and
bringing in their rabbit cages, I happened to spend some extra time
with a young boy named Dru Dahman and his parents.
Dru's dad and I stood and visited several minutes. I learned that
it was his son's first year of showing and that he and his parents
had no great expectations, but rather considered it to be a learning
year, with hopes of doing better in the future.
As we chatted, I also noticed a gentleman roaming from kid to
kid, stopping to talk, handling their rabbits and asking them
questions. I knew enough to know this was not the judging. I soon
learned that it was Wayne Coffey.
I clearly remember him coming to young Dru and checking his
rabbits and visiting with the youngster.
He asked Dru if he knew how to flip his rabbit. Dru did not.
Wayne stood there for several minutes showing Dru how to turn his
bunny on its back. I laughed as I watched the bunny try to avoid the
flip, and I got a real kick out of seeing both Wayne and Dru
scramble when the bunny tried to get away.
I managed to snap a couple of shots of the scene, and I'm glad
now that I got at least those. For what I have come to realize and
remember now is that Wayne was one of those people who would rather
step out of the picture instead of into it.
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Working the judging tables, I would walk around and try to
squeeze in shots of the kids and their rabbits during judging. Wayne
was always the one who would say to me, "Can you see?" He would move
out of the way so the kids could be the center of the picture,
because for him at least, it was the kids who were the important
When Wayne died on July 17 of this year, I read his obituary with
great sadness as did many others, knowing that this year the rabbit
show will not be the same without him there.
I recently talked to John Fulton, the University of Illinois
Extension adviser, via email about Wayne.
For several years now, there have been Fulton boys showing
rabbits at the Logan County Fair. John told me that when he'd talked
to his son David and told him Wayne was gone, David was greatly
saddened by it.
Fulton said his son told him: "Mr. Coffey was always helping me
with my rabbit project. He helped me pick out the best ones, taught
me how to show them, and I learned a lot from him. I will really
miss him at the fair and going to his house and working with
Fulton also had some very kind words in remembrance of Wayne.
"He was a real promoter of rabbit projects for youth," Fulton
said. "He went the extra mile when it came to kids -- tattooing
rabbits at night and weekends, helping select breeding stock, and
going through the details of showmanship and exhibiting. Whenever a
youth asked for help -- they got it."
And, in closing, I believe Fulton also worded best what all the
sentiments of those who knew Wayne would be if given the opportunity
"He was a great co-superintendent of the rabbit shows for 4-H and
the junior show at the Logan County Fair," Fulton wrote. "He will be
greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, and
I'm sure more than a few tears will be shed during the rabbit show