The force behind the Oakland County Fair and the revived Michigan State Fair is getting nationwide recognition.
L.C. Scramlin of Holly, general manager of the Oakland County Fair, recently was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md. Scramlin was up against other nominees from each state. Then 16 were selected to be recognized individually for exceptional leadership, citizenship, character and career accomplishments with 4-H.
“When you think about how big 4-H is and the number of people that have certainly left a mark in our state, for L.C. to rise to the top of the list, and then for the National Committee to see his portfolio and agree at the national level that he’s worthy of such an induction, it speaks a lot to what L.C. has done,” says Jake DeDecker, state leader of Michigan 4-H Youth Development.
4-H is Michigan’s largest youth development organization, providing more than 200,000 children each year with the opportunity to learn by doing. In Oakland County alone, there are approximately 50 4-H clubs. Through classes and events taught by volunteers, participants absorb critical life skills such as goal setting, self-discipline, conflict resolution, problem-solving and teamwork. They also grow into leaders as they work to hone the values of the 4 H’s: head, heart, hands and health. Often linked to kids who farm or raise animals, 4-H also features programming on science, technology, aerospace, robotics, clothing, textiles, photography and more.
“The first thing I tell people about 4-H is there is something for everyone,” says Scramlin, who raises lambs and sheep with his wife, Jackie, and often conducts sheep-shearing demonstrations for 4-H clubs. His children and grandchildren are active in 4-H as well.
Scramlin, 70, was attending 4-H gatherings before he was born. His dairy-farming grandparents and parents, including his pregnant mom, were active participants. He followed in their footsteps, first as a participant, starting out in the dairy program, and becoming a regular on the fair scene who won often, including a state award for agriculture. When he aged out, he volunteered and has become one of 4-H’s biggest cheerleaders.
“I live and breathe 4-H,” Scramlin says.
Milestones that helped him get into the Hall of Fame include a 1986 project when the Oakland County Fair needed a new livestock building. In 11 months, Scramlin raised $62,000 as chair of the Livestock Challenge. With the help of 31 volunteers, they built the 4-H barn.
After that, the Oakland County Fair became his passion. He served as its president for 19 years and as fair manager for 13 years. In that capacity, he’s grown both attendance — more than 100,000 each July at Springfield Oaks County Park in Davisburg in normal years — and the exhibitor roster each year.
He also made history when he helped secure the largest federal historical grant in Michigan — $675,000 — to renovate the 1884 Ellis Barn. The 14,000-square-foot structure was donated by former Major League Baseball players Kirk Gibson and Tim Birtsas.
“He’s very dynamic,” says Dan Stencil, executive officer of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department, who has known Scramlin for 40 years. “He is someone who always puts all his efforts into what he’s doing. He’s also been a great spokesperson for our park system.”
At one point, 4-H was part of the Oakland County Fair’s name. Scramlin and his board decided to strike it in 2002 as a way to appeal to a broader audience who might have thought they had to be connected to 4-H to enjoy the MIdway, pig races and rodeo.
“It worked,” Stencil says, “because we have more exhibitors and visitors.”
In 2008 when the county fair lost state funding it had used to pay exhibitors, Scramlin set up a series of fundraisers to replace the money. They continue to this day for the same purpose.
“L.C.’s quite an individual and a good friend of the park system,” Stencil says. “He’s a great asset to the Oakland County community.”
State Fair Saviors
The same holds true for the state. Scramlin is part of the team that revived the Michigan State Fair. The last one had been held in 2009, when then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm cut its state funding.
“In 2010 and 2011 when we didn’t have a state fair, boy, it just seemed like we’d let the next generation down,” Scramlin says.
Scramlin and his team worked with Blair Bowman, owner of Suburban Collection Showplace and manager of the Michigan State Fair, LLC, to relaunch the fair in 2012 at the convention center in Novi.
“L.C. has been invaluable and he’s truly our guide,” Bowman says. “He is so well-respected and has kept us on track to make sure that we are fulfilling the mission of what a true state fair looks to provide.”
When Scramlin was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame, Bowman flew to be at the Maryland ceremony.
“Every time L.C. gets up to speak, he makes me cry,” Bowman says. “He is so passionate. When he talks about what the state fair or 4-H means to him and how many doctors and lawyers he’s helped through 4-H, you have to grab the Kleenex box. He’s incredible.”
The 2021 Oakland County Fair is set for July 9-19.