Since 1963, the Clearfield Lions Club has provided a shuttle to people at the Iowa State Fair. This marks the 50-year anniversary of the service.
The shuttle runs the week of the state fair— Aug. 8-18—from 8 a.m. to midnight. The shuttle is taken from Clearfield to the Lions Club area of the campgrounds at the fair with a total of five stops—both of the bathhouses on the campground, two stops in between the bathhouses, and at the First Church at the fair grounds. The Clearfield Lions campground area has increased to more than 100 campers over the years.
Lions members felt there was a need for transportation for the local campers, especially the elderly, to the Iowa State Fair. The shuttle was proposed to the fair board secretary in 1963.
Dale Jeurgens, Gerald Maharry and Dale Cooper were members of the group to propose the shuttle and are continuing their dedicated service after 50 years. Because of this service, the three were asked by the Iowa State Fair Board to be parade marshals for this year’s Iowa State Fair parade.
“It keeps people together. It takes all of us to get it done,” said Cooper.
“It started as a two- to three-year project, and low and behold it’s gone 50 years,” said Jeurgens.
A committed service
All work is olunteered by Lions Club members. The shuttle requires 64 drivers for one day of use. The men have the job of running the shuttle while the women help load passengers. Shifts change every two hours.
“Well, really not a lot has changed. It seems to operate about like it did to start with. Everybody knew what they were to do. You just go up there and drive,” said Cooper, who drove the shuttle for 46 years and stopped recently because of a heart condition.
The Clearfield Lions build all the units themselves and perform maintenance every year. Since 1963, the units have increased from four to eight shuttles, two of the units are now equipped with handicap lifts, and all the units were remodeled this year. A fleet of nine tractors also accompany the shuttles.
“Obviously, it’s made us the largest Lions Club in Iowa… That’s kind of hard on the folks in the bigger cities,” said Jeurgens.
Being a town with a population about 300, Clearfield takes pride in not only being the largest Lions Club in Iowa, but also the only town that operates a shuttle at the fair.
“It’s for all ages. We haul baby strollers and wheelchairs,” said Gaylan Bell, a member of the Clearfield Lions club and volunteer for the shuttle. “It’s been an extremely fun ride. We have a lot of fun up there.”
The shuttle is the only fundraiser run by the Clearfield Lions. The campers pay a small fee, and the fair gives compensation for the shuttle service. All money raised goes into the Clearfield Lions fund.
“The pay we get is a big benefit to the town,” said Jeurgens. “We come home and are able to do lots of things in our little community that probably could not have been done otherwise.”
The revenue from the shuttle is not only used toward maintenance of the units, but also local projects and services. These services include upkeep for the Clearfield cemetery and Clearfield museum, fourth of July activities and donations to local schools.
“We support several towns for their prom nights and we built basketball and tennis courts. When the school runs short of money for computers or something, why they can always come to us,” said Bell.
An important benefit to the town is buying materials for the Lions foundation for the visually handicapped, which the Clearfield Lions are known for worldwide. A camera was purchased recently with aid from the Lions for the Kids Sight Program, a service to examine local children’s eyes.
“We pick up about two out of 100 that need further attention, said Jeurgens. “We are proud of that to think that we helped two kids out of 100 preserve their sight.”
According to Bell, there is passion in the Lions who operate the shuttle, especially those who have dedicated half a century to the service.
“You’re really fluffing these guy’s feathers,” said Bell. “They feel pretty special.”