Fair is here! Matt and I spent the entire day on Wednesday. We always like to go on opening day when everything is new and fresh and clean. On opening day, there are fewer people than other days and everyone is in a really good mood before the heat, long hours and the “funny” characters start to get to workers, making attitudes less than perfect.
The first thing we do on opening day is check out the 4-H booth to see how Matt has done on his projects. This year, he had just one project. But he took Grand Champion for that project which surprised us both. He has received Reserve Champion in the past, but this is the first time he took the Grand Champion Award, so we were pretty happy. He received a free fair ticket for his endeavor and he gets to attend an award ceremony on Sunday. This was something new for us; neither of us knew the fair did that, so that was an added surprise.
Next, we moved on to the photography booth, where Matt had entered 6 photographs. He took two reds, two whites, and an honorable mention on his photos. The photo that I thought most likely to receive an award, won nothing. Goes to show you what I know. We spent quite a bit of time in this section, as we both love looking at the entries and marveling over some people’s creativity.
The Gardening Building was next on our agenda. Though, my garden suffered some this year, I decided to enter carrots, beets, dill, green beans and my annual “Soup Bowl”. I should have saved myself the trouble this year, receiving no awards for my individual entries! My “Soup Bowl” did receive a Red Ribbon, but I was so embarrassed over my other vegetables, the satisfaction over the Red Ribbon was greatly diluted. I looked at my vegetables there on display and wondered how in the world I could have picked the vegetables I had picked. They looked much worse after sitting out for a couple of days, but even so, they were clearly not what they should be to win a ribbon. I found myself wanting to turn over the name tags, so no one would know they were mine. What was I thinking??? Oh well; I got to see Mr. Jack when I entered my veggies and that kind gentleman always makes me smile. The workers with their pleasant, dedicated attitudes always make the experience worthwhile.
It was apparent that entries in all buildings were well below average this year, though it seemed no one wanted to admit it when I commented about it. The baked and canned goods entries seemed especially low. Most likely the new controversy over having to add a recipe with the item, contributed to the low number of entries.
There was also controversy this year over allowing alcohol through out the fairgrounds. Ya gotta wonder about the wisdom in that. Of all the changes they made, I believe this is the one that is most troublesome. A letter to the editor of the local paper said the writer spent the entire opening day and didn’t even see anyone with a beer until 8:00 pm that evening. She obviously wasn’t watching very well. I saw the first patron appear at the beer garden at just after 12:00 noon. There were people with glasses of beer in their hands scattered throughout the grounds the rest of the day. I was surprised however, when late in the afternoon Matt saw someone with a beer and said, “Mom, that is the first beer I have seen today.” Usually, he is the perceptive one, but I was glad he hadn’t noticed what I had. Another report said the beer was “free-flowing and everywhere”, alluding to the fact that it was no place for families. That wasn’t entirely true either. At least on opening day, I saw nothing offensive, nor any fights, or trouble over allowing the beer. It just isn’t what we choose to be around and I wish it wouldn’t be allowed, but so far I’m not seeing any balance in reports.
I ran into my old boss as I knew I would. He is very involved with the fair and the politics of it. He said in fact, he would be manning one of the beer booths on Friday evening. He explained the training he had to take in order to do so, and he also explained the rules to me. Patrons are only allowed to purchase two beers for their time at the fair and the way it would be handled sounded strict and careful. I only hope it works. It certainly sounded like it should, but people can be pretty resourceful in achieving what they desire, so I guess that remains to be seen. The evening rodeo will tell much I believe, and I will be keeping careful watch.
The rodeo is at the top of my list of favorite things of the fair. That crowd is always an awesome crowd, and they are a big part of what makes the rodeo so special. They have always been a receptive crowd, an enthusiastic crowd, a respectful and polite crowd. It is hard for me to think it would be a crowd that abuses a beer garden, but I guess that remains to be seen. My love of the rodeo will have to be a whole other post because there is a ton I can say about it.
I remember telling my old boss several years ago, when there had been discussion of moving the fairgrounds or changing the grandstands and he was on the committee to decide; “Don’t you dare let them move my fair!” And then even more I exclaimed; “If they move those grandstands anywhere but facing that mountain, it will ruin everything!” Somehow, I felt like those fairgrounds belonged to me and nobody had better touch it. ;-)
All-in-all, I love the fair. I always have. I remember as a kid growing up just a mile or so from the fairgrounds, it was one of my favorite things to do of the summer. My brother and sisters and I were allowed to walk over to the fairgrounds every year, sometimes with friends. We would cut across the field that is now the massive parking lot filled with rows and rows of cars. Back then, it was only pasture, and it was the short cut we would take to the entry gate. I felt the same way then, that I do now: excitement, anticipation, and expectation. I knew I would see friends, eat good food and enjoy the creativity of the entries. The animals would be the high-light for me then, but as an adult it is always about who I will see. It has always been a place to see and visit with people that one knows. It’s a social place; a place where community comes together and enjoys all that the area has to offer. This probably sounds funny, but every year I count up the number of people I have run into on my day at the fair and try to think about the one that probably goes back in my past the furthest. I actually have wonderful memories of specific moments at the fair when I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years. I revisit those memories every now and then at fair time and those memories continue to make me want to hold on to our county fair. It has always been a place where locals gather and I love that. The county fair is about people, family and community.
I expect we will be seeing some additional changes that are brought about by the changes that have been made this year. Things may become more about money and commercial exhibits rather then about people and their projects. If so, it will be a shame, because it will change the whole dynamics of the county fair. The crowd may change as fair priorities change, but for now it’s still my county fair and well-worth supporting. While it’s here, I intend to make a few more memories. I don't think it is going to be around forever...