The one thing lacking at the Lake County Fairgrounds is landscaping.
That changed Saturday when 15-year-old Jenelle Brodzik of Wadsworth orchestrated some 50 volunteers to plant hundreds of trees, shrubs and perennials.
“The gravel pits and the barns need color and greenery. Much of the area needs growth and life,” Brodzik said.
The Warren Township High School sophomore chose the beautification initiative for her community service project mandatory for her advanced placement government and politics class.
“We want our students to become informed and active on an issue with a community service component,” said Michele Bertola, Brodzik’s teacher. “We expect the AP students to become leaders, and Jenelle is definitely doing that.”
Brodzik has been an active member of the All in Ag 4-H club for nine years. She said this assignment was her opportunity to spruce up the area she spends much of her time.
She began by asking home gardeners to donate extra bulbs or plants. She took a gamble on asking Lake County nurseries to pitch in. The response, she said, has been overwhelming.
Brodzik estimates close to $3,000 in materials alone have been donated.
“We have 160 acres here at the fair and the fact that a teenager is doing this is truly amazing,” said Sheri Vyfvinkel, general manager of the Lake County Fairgrounds. “To see this in action is truly awesome.”
Donations came in all sizes, from as small as a few lily bulbs, to as large as a nine foot blue spruce.
“We have been a part of the fair for years, so this is something we really just needed and wanted to do,” said Dave Didier of Didier Farms of Prairie View when he dropped off a truckload of shrubs, mulch and dirt.
Brodzik enlisted the help of friend Joe Medici of Medici Landscaping in Highland Park to draw up a design and help with the implementation.
“She’s so motivated that it’s hard to not want to help,” said Medici of Brodzik. “If everyone helps out a little bit then we can really make these grounds beautiful."
The work could not have been done without the volunteers who braved the cold temperatures and high winds. Several Warren High School students, local 4-H clubs and landscapers donated their Saturday morning to the cause.
“We all use the fairgrounds, and this just helps make it look better,” said Highland Park resident Oskar Hrach, who put his shovel to use.
Brodzik, amazed by the amount of people and businesses that have helped with the beautification project, hopes to put together a plaque to recognize the efforts of the community.
“I knew this would be a great project, I just had no idea how big it would be,” she said. “It makes this fair better for us. And, we’ll know we did this and put our hard work into it. It’s awesome”