INDIANPOLIS — Visitors of the Indiana State Fair who see Mauri Williamson also likely will see a number of people stop and shake his hand or share a story with him.

The well-known Hoosier founded Pioneer Village and served as executive secretary of the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Association for 40 years.

Today, Williamson, an Economy native and U.S. Navy veteran, lives in West Lafayette with his wife of 66 years, June.

Williamson describes his feelings for all things agriculture as a deep love affair. His passion for preserving and presenting history through the collection of buildings, people, antiques and equipment in Pioneer Village is just as strong.

In addition to his involvement in Pioneer Village, he is a board member for the newly formed Indiana Barns Foundation and hopes to see the urgency to preserve these items continue.

Q: How did Pioneer Village begin?

A: Pioneer Village started as a project by the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Association in 1961. At first it started as a second-floor room at the grandstand. We thought people wouldn’t make it to see it, but 20,000 people came up to the second floor. In 1968, it was moved to the current location on the fairgrounds.

Q: How has it grown?

A: It started with old tractors and then through items from Purdue University and donations from others. We’ve gotten some pretty priceless items over the years. It continues to grow each year.

Q: Why is this place special to you?

A: To see people look at this stuff by the hundreds of thousands is a pretty special feeling. There are 200 to 300 volunteers here each year and that makes me happy.

Q: Tell me where you’re from.

A: I grew up in Economy, Ind., in Wayne County. My parents farmed, so I helped them out on the farm and was involved with 4-H. It is also where I met my wife, June. We met in the 1940s at a county fair, and were married two years later to the day. We’ve now been married for 66 years.

Q: What is your connection to agriculture?

A: I’ve always had a connection to agriculture. With parents who farmed, it came naturally. What makes me feel warm is my big love affair with agriculture.

Q: What was your experience with the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Association?

A: I spent 40 years as executive secretary of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association. It is a service organization, and I’ve spent a lot of the time on the road helping young people.

Q: Another group you’re involved with is Indiana Barn Foundation. Tell me about it.

A: Preserving Indiana barns is a passion of mine. We would like to eventually keep a directory of where the barns are so we can begin to try to preserve that history. If a barn has a good roof, it will last for a few years; if a barn has a bad roof, it won’t last. We are trying to save barns one roof at a time.

Q: What does agriculture mean to you?

A: Agriculture is more than eating biscuits. A lot of people who visit the state fair are not farmers, but these people feel close to the land. There is a love and loyalty in agriculture and a certain affinity for the land.