By Jean Caspers-Simmet
DECORAH, Iowa — The Danan Lansing Memorial Building brimmed with 4-H and FFA kids and their sheep and goats at last week’s Winneshiek County Fair in Decorah.
A year ago, the dream of a new all-seasons community building was just a glimmer. The building was dedicated at last week’s fair.
"In April 2007 we had some circumstances that none of us like to see with the passing of Danan Lansing," said Fair Board President John Gipp. "That led to this building."
Danan, the son of Kevin and Judy Lansing of Ossian, was 16 years old when he died April 29, 2007, from a stroke because of an unknown heart condition after routine knee surgery. He was involved in baseball, basketball and football in school and had a passion for showing sheep at the county and state fairs.
John Huinker, a longtime 4-H friend with Kevin Lansing, Danan’s father, said that last summer Kevin and his wife, Judy, wanted to show Danan’s sheep at the fair. Extension said it was OK. The sheep did well, and the Lansings wanted to donate the proceeds that the sheep brought at the livestock auction to the fair for improvements.
"People stepped forward and donated other sheep, hogs and cattle in the sale to go toward the improvements," Huinker said. "We had no idea it would lead to the magnitude of support we got."
Huinker and his wife, Ruth, contacted people to see if they would invest in capital improvements to the fair in memory of Danan.
"In 24 hours, we had $10,900 pledged," Huinker said.
During the livestock auction, Danan’s lamb was resold repeatedly and the auction raised $20,000.
"Then the community stepped forward with tremendous support and fundraisers," Huinker said. "Everyone was very happy to support the family and the fair."
Gipp said that the fair board met with the Lansings and they decided they should consider a building that could be used year-round by the community. Fair board members Dale Smith and Rich Hamel took on the job of "superintendents," putting in many hours coordinating volunteers and contractors. Smith said that 330 individuals and businesses contributed to the project, and he tried to list everyone on bulletin boards in the sheep building and at the grandstand.
"If you helped or donated and are not on the list, write your name down," Smith said. "Next year we hope to have a display area that shows everyone who contributed."
Kevin Lansing thanked everyone on behalf of his wife, Judy, and their daughters Kelly, Micole and Darrah. He talked about how Danan loved to show sheep and had a real knack for it from an early age.
"That kid could show sheep," he said.
Danan would always give his father a thumbs-up when he did well in the show ring.
"I’m going to give you the Danan Lansing pump, and we’re good to go," Lansing said.
"We have a lot of young kids at the fair who want to do the best job they can, just like Danan," Gipp said. "We thank everyone that we have excellent facilities for these quality young people for showing."