- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The fair has always been a special place for Dave and Sue Nussear.

The magic for them began more than 52 years ago, in the most romantic place a fair has to offer.

“We were engaged on a Ferris wheel in Memphis, Tennessee,” Dave said. “We were married while I was in the Navy.”

Their love for each other blossomed into something magnificent, as did their love for people. The Nussears have spent many years and countless hours of their time helping others, from volunteering with Boy Scouts and Junior Miss pageants to helping theater groups, children’s organizations and much more.

That brilliant love for others and sense of duty to their community followed them when they moved to North Idaho in 1985, and just a few years later, they discovered their calling.

They struck up a friendship with their then-neighbor, who owned horses. The neighbor convinced Dave to join the board of directors for the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo.

“He fell in love with it,” Sue said. “I think if he could do his career again, he would be a fair manager.”

Dave, who retired from Hecla Mining Company in 2001, has been an active board member since 1991. He has also served as board chairman and is presently the finance chairman, and Sue has been beside him the entire way. The couple, now in their mid-70s, have been involved in every aspect of the fair - pulling beer, taking tickets, raising funds for new facilities, caring for animals, helping guests with questions and problems, organizing exhibits and departments, planning, finances - the list is endless.

They’ve been involved in and contributed to many other North Idaho events and organizations, such as the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, Ironman and youth sports, while dedicating their time and talents to the fair. They also spend their own money to attend fairs and conventions in other states and in Canada to learn how to make North Idaho’s fair even better.

“We’ve been to fairs that have ostrich races, turkey races, we’ve been to between 35 and 40 different fairs and two of the World’s Fairs,” Dave said. “We were very fortunate through the years.”

And they love every part of it.

“You stand still, we’re going to talk to you about fair,” Dave said, his eyes smiling. “And if someone isn’t happy, my job is to listen. Part of my job as a volunteer at the fairgrounds is to listen and then solve the problem, understand their problem and make them have a good experience.”

“You want people to come to the fair, enjoy it and go away with a good feeling,” Sue said. “Not only are fairs educational, but they’re fun. We know musicians and hypnotists and magic people from all over. It’s what we call our ‘fair family.’ Fair people are so close and so welcoming . it’s a great bunch of people. And we’re trying to get it now so that younger people will want to come to the fair. We’re trying to put in things that they will enjoy but we don’t want to lose the older ones either. It’s a balance.”

Dave and Sue’s passion for people, positive attitudes, willingness to help where needed and overall enthusiasm for fair life have impacted those around them. During the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs convention that took place Nov. 11-14 in Layton, Utah, they received the Fair Persons of the Year Award, an honor they were not expecting.

“We were sitting there listening to them read the award and all of a sudden …” Sue said.

” … We realized it was us,” Dave said, completing her sentence. “We had no clue.”

“We’ve been an incredibly lucky couple,” Sue said. “To get this award, for us, was very humbling because we know a lot of people in the fair industry that do these things.”

The annual award usually goes to one individual, but the many people who submitted letters nominating Dave and Sue for the award strongly felt that they have done so much together that it was only right they be honored together.

“They’re honored for their dedication and their volunteer services,” said RMAF executive secretary Nancy Pitz, who has attended many conventions with the Nussears. “They’re (at the convention) every year. They’re always very enthusiastic and they participate in what’s going on.”

Pitz said it was kept a complete secret from the Nussears that they won the award.

“It is extremely gratifying when you get to watch the reaction on their face,” she said. “My favorite part of the whole job is when we give those awards out and just being able to watch them.”

Kootenai County Fairgrounds fair manager Dane Dugan said that Dave and Sue “are two of the finest volunteers I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”

“They are the first to ask how they can help,” he said in his nomination letter. “They recruit others when needed. Their enthusiasm and passion for our fair and fairgrounds is unsurpassed.”

He commented on the couple’s involvement in the RMAF conventions, where they network, share ideas and have fun in the process.

“They are in their 70s and still beat most 30-year-olds in staying up late for the jam sessions at convention,” Dugan said. “They take time to get to know each entertainer and have opened their home to many of them. They participate in workshops and then share that with the rest of the Fair Board upon returning.”

Dave and Sue easily smile. They laugh a lot, finish each other’s sentences and frequently dive into fond memories of the people they have met in their lives as fair volunteers. Their youthful spirits are contagious, and there’s a reason for that: they’re enjoying the ride.

“We went to a seminar one time, and the whole theme of this person’s presentation was, ‘Enjoy the Ride,’” Dave said.

“In other words, don’t get so wrapped up in making the money and everything else that you forget to enjoy your life,” Sue said. “That money is nice to have, but it’s not the life.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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