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Troupe a veteran of many carnivals

July 28, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - Long gone are the days when Jake Troupe fished bottled Cokes from a bucket of ice and sold them for 5 cents each at the Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Co.'s annual carnival.

But Troupe still anchors the event's soda sales.

The Clear Spring native will take his place in the Coke trailer Monday just as he's done for the past 63 years, minus the time he served in the 4th Air Corps during World War II.

At 82, Troupe will spend more time on his stool than he used to. He'll push buttons on a dispenser rather than popping bottle caps. He won't run for more soda cases, but will wait for his 5-year-old great-grandson to pull his mini-John Deere Gator up to the trailer with extra supplies.

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And he'll scan the crowded carnival grounds from his familiar booth, marveling at the success of the carnival he helped launch in 1939.

"I never expected it to last this long. It wasn't anything like the carnival today," Troupe said. "We'll do more business in the first 15 minutes than we did during the whole carnival in the old days."

The 1939 carnival drew about 500 people and grossed about $700, including $2 in popcorn sales and about $75 in general food sales, according to information from the Clear Spring District Historical Society.

Soda sales alone totaled about $18,000 last year, Troupe said.

He will help prepare 300 cold ham sandwiches before the carnival starts each day this year to stay ahead of the public's demand, he said.

Troupe has been mowing the carnival grounds in preparation for the event and has spent the last few weeks distributing thousands of ride tickets to local businesses and individuals for pre-sale, he said.

The bullhorn-advertised, three-ride gathering at the edge of town has evolved into a well-publicized, six-day tradition that attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the six-acre carnival grounds.

Troupe remembers when carnival-goers flocked to the grounds to watch small-town bands, boxing matches and the horseback antics of jousters such as his father, Russell "Knight of Cedar Hill" Troupe. Now they come for big-name entertainment, tip jars, Bingo games and nearly 20 modern amusement rides.

In the old days, Troupe and other firefighters built food and games booths for the carnival every year, he said. The stands are now permanent.

A truckload of portable toilets have replaced the two-hole privy that served as the event's restroom in days gone by, said Troupe, who joined the department four years after it was chartered in 1935.

He became Clear Spring's second fire chief in 1964 and served as department treasurer for 48 years and county fire policeman for 25 years. Troupe has also been department president, secretary and line officer.

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