What do Thunder and Lightning, Giddy Up and Whoa and Doofy all have in common? All were names of bucket calves at the Marshall County Fair. Over the past couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of judging a few county fairs and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Oh sure it was hot and the poor kids got to see a fat old man melt, but in the end I think they had as much fun as I did.
I hope this year, that each of you will have the chance to go take in a county fair in your area. I cannot think of a better way to spend a day (or many days in my case). A trip to the county fair will remind you that all is not lost in this world. A small county fair is a snapshot of the world we all want. We have heard all this talk about Staycations and a tour of county fairs would make a great Staycation.
I challenge each of you to take an evening and spend it at the nearest fair. Take time to sit in the stands and watch the livestock show. Many of us hear reports about how lazy and irresponsible our youth have become. I am here to tell you from my perspective that is not the case when it comes to our 4-H and FFA youth. The animals in that ring, in most cases, represent several months to a year of hard work. With the heat we have had, most of those projects represent a lot of early mornings and late nights, trying to beat the heat.
You can see the pride that the owner takes in the animals they are showing in the ring. They are eager to show and tell the judge about all the hard work and time that went into the project. I wish each of you could follow me around in the show ring and see what I see. Oh sure, I do see things and run into parents who have entirely missed what the livestock project is all about, but they are few and far between. The vast majority of the youth are learning life lessons and life skills that will serve them every day of the rest of their lives.
They will learn how to care for another living creature; they learn money and time management skills and they will know where their food comes from and why we raise animals for food. Most of these youth will probably not make their living raising livestock, but those skills and knowledge will make them better at whatever career they chose. That is why 4-H and FFA alumni are in high demand with employers.
I know I have focused a lot on the livestock projects; it is what I know the best, but do not forget to check out the other exhibits. The youth responsible for these exhibits are also learning real world skills along with other life lessons. You will be amazed at the talent, skills and time each of those exhibits represent. Remember that each of those projects is a representation of an entire year’s work. If you are lucky, the youth responsible for the project will be there. Ask them about their exhibit, but be prepared to listen. I know you will be impressed and learn more than you ever imagined about that topic.
Beyond the exhibits there is much else to do at a county fair. Every fair I have ever been to (and I have been to most of the county fairs in Kansas) have something unique to offer, something they are very proud of. For some it is the entertainment, the rodeo or demolition derby, others might be able to offer food, some of the food stands at fairs are incredible and there other attractions such as home-owned carnivals that make that fair special. My point is each fair has its own unique personality, find out what that is and enjoy it.
I will have the honor of judging at 6 or 7 fairs this summer and probably attend two or three others, in addition to spending four days at our fair in Pottawatomie County and I am really looking forward to each experience. I cannot think of a better way to spend a morning, an afternoon, an evening or a whole day than at a county fair. It is a place that you can take the whole family, turn your kids free and not worry about their safety and find something that will interest everyone in your family.
Come visit a fair, if you don’t know of one in your area come to the Pottawatomie County Fair and look me up. I guarantee you will have a great time and I will introduce you to some of the most impressive youth you have ever met and they will tell you about what they have learned. How will you find me? Just look for a relaxed guy with a big mustache, Hawaiian shirt sitting in a lawn chair in the livestock barn, enjoying life. That will be me.