Sandbox dedicated to young Mabel boy's memory
PRESTON — Last year, during the Fillmore County Fair, 2-year-old Anthony Williams of Mabel could often be found playing in the dirt or sawdust while other 4-H members showed their livestock in the ring.
Lisa Apenhorst of Spring Valley remembers the small boy inviting other future 4-Hers to come and play with him.
"All of these little kids really bonded ,and they loved playing in the dirt," Apenhorst said.
When news spread that Anthony had died in an accident on the family’s farm east of Mabel on Aug. 4, 2009, a group of families decided they wanted to do something special to remember his short life.
With approval from the fair board, 20 children involved in the Bloomfield Cloverleaf 4-H club designed and built a large enclosed sandbox where children can play during the fair.
The club members live in the Spring Valley, Wykoff, Cherry Grove and Ostrander areas.
Fillmore Saw Mill, Valley Farm and Home and the Root and Langeslag families donated materials for the project. Graphics on the Go in Spring Valley helped out with lettering for sandbox, and the Fillmore County Fair Board provided the sand.
Club president Joseph Hoffman York said several families spent nine days working on the project in June and they first debuted the sandbox in the Fourth of July Parade in Cherry Grove on July 3.
Rachel Welch of Spring Valley, one of Anthony’s relatives, said the sandbox was set up Monday behind the bleachers in front of the show ring.
"Parents will know that their kids are safe and they can watch the show while they play," Welch said.
The sandbox will be moved to the campground area after the fair, but it will return to the livestock barn for the winter months and every year during fair week.
Welch said the sandbox is adorned with pictures of tractors, skid loaders and dairy cows, because those were Anthony’s favorite things.
Melanie Woods, 16, and her sister, Melinda Woods, 14, were leaders of the project and created a display outlining their community project. The club won a reserved champion ribbon.
Anthony’s father, Fred Williams of Mabel, is grateful for what the club has done to remember his son.
"There’s never a dull moment in that sandbox," Williams said while at the fair Thursday.
His two children, Alexis, 8, and Fred, 6, played with a handful of other children in the sandbox bearing their brother’s name.
The Williams family, including Anthony's mother Dennise Williams, has been involved with the fair for many years.
"At one point, I counted 18 kids in there, and they’re all just having a blast," Williams said. "It’s something Anthony would have loved."