The Madden Hill Conservation Club of Hamilton Township disbanded last December.
Dan Carpenter of Seymour was a member of the club for about 25 years, and he believes the club was chartered well before that.
“We couldn’t get anybody that wanted to participate, and there were about five of us left, and most of us had been there for quite awhile,” Carpenter said. “It’s like that a lot of places, and nobody wants to volunteer anymore or do any extra than what they’ve already got on their plate, so we just decided to close it up.”
The funds left in the club amounted to about $4,500, which the club recently gave to the Jackson County Conservation Council to help make the final payment for the fish tank at the fairgrounds.
“We used to participate at the fair every year and helped at the fish stand, frying the fish,” he said. “We just couldn’t get enough volunteers to keep our club going, and we tried for several years but couldn’t get it to pick up.”
Carpenter said some of the money raised at the fish stand goes for food plots that kids can go out and do for wildlife.
“We would go out and judge those and give them savings bonds for the winner and a smaller savings bond for the second place and so on,” he said. “The conservation council consists of several Jackson County clubs, and they set things up down there at the fair, and each individual club takes a day at the fish stand and cooks fish.”
Carpenter said the proceeds go toward paying booth rental and electricity there, and a small percentage goes back to the club for food plots. There also used to be hunter education classes.
“We just wanted to give back to the council for all the things they’ve done for each individual club over the years, and so we wanted to help them out with that fish tank debt,” he said.
Carpenter said he will miss the volunteering and the fellowship of the club, and he hoped to make it to the fair and get a fish sandwich.
Types of fish in the fish tank are crappie, bass, catfish, sunfish and sometimes carp. There also are turtles that local people have caught and brought to the fair to display.
On Thursday in the Jackson County Conservation Council building was Terry Ault with the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District, who had educational materials available.
Justin Bierly of the U.S. Department of Agriculture also had a table in the building with information about the wild pig population, and personnel with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was manning the glass tanks containing snakes.
Several members of the Norman Conservation Club were taking their turn at volunteering Thursday, frying the fish and working at the stand.
Jackson County Conservation Council officers Dick Clampitt, James Mills and Nancy Mills were helping out, too.
Clampitt, the council’s chairman, said Friday was going to be the Dudleytown club’s turn to volunteer, then today, they’d all pitch in to help.
“This fish tank was built about six years ago, and at that time, we had to pay for it on our own, and The Peoples Bank was gracious enough to give us a loan,” Clampitt said. “Every year after the fair, we go down to the bank and make a payment, and each of the clubs comes here to help at the stand every year, so they’ve all helped pay for this.”
He said volunteers bring the fish and turtles to put into the tank, and James Mills’ dad, Ed Mills, brings a lot of fish each year.
“Anyone can bring a fish to have in the tank for the fair, and if they want to put it in a grandchild’s name, they can do that,” Clampitt said. “In September, we have a dinner we call a wild game supper, and we give those kids a certificate and a little trophy and take their pictures, which means a lot to them.”
James Mills, the council’s vice president, was a member of the Madden Hill Conservation Club that folded.
“It was suggested we use the rest of our money to make the last payment for the fish tank,” he said. “So this year, we won’t have to go down to the bank to make that payment.”
Nancy Mills said she has been the secretary/treasurer of the council for about 17 or 18 years.
“We are a nonprofit organization, and for the fair, we have to make sure the fish that are brought in are weighed, and we have to get the peoples’ names,” Mills said. “The DNR works with the snakes in the building. I have to order the food and make sure there are people here to volunteer every day, so it takes a lot of work.”
She said at one time, there were about seven clubs in the council, but that number has been decreasing, and if they don’t get the younger kids involved, there won’t be any conservation clubs left.