There are few things I find more relaxing or comforting than the cab of my tractor after the county fair. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the county fair but all the hustle and bustle of the week leading up to it and the constant go, go , go of the fair makes me appreciate the relative calm and quiet of the hay field. That and the need to be alone in a quiet place for a while, I am a people person but you know what they say about too much of a good thing.
This year’s fair was a very good fair. It was complete with the usual array of highlights and disappointments. The fair this year even had the added excitement of a real life fire in one of the vendor’s food trailers, not once but twice. All I will say is there is nothing better than a fire truck arriving during the beef show. Most of all this year’s fair featured a time to reacquaint with old friends and the opportunity to meet new friends.
The county fair is the pinnacle event that all 4-Hers and FFA members work up to each year and their hard work was on display. I always find it tough when a whole summer’s worth of work comes down to one person’s opinion in a few short minutes. When you or your child is picked as the winner nothing compares to the rush, but when you are at the other end of the lineup it can also be very frustrating.
I know I can get too focused on the ranking of my children’s projects and it is easy to lose focus on what it is all about. I promise you that in five years and often much sooner than that, no one will remember who finished where or what ribbon they received. I know this because I asked several young people this year. They could tell you about the animal they exhibited and what happened during the fair and often they had a vague idea of what ribbon they received but not the exact placing.
What I saw, when I took a moment to observe, was groups of kids and adults gathered round the show box or leaning on the show ring fence. Some of the discussions were serious in nature but most often they involved laughter, good natured ribbing and smiles. That is what the county fair is all about. We have to evaluate the projects because it is part of the process but we also need to keep that part in perspective.
Ribbon color really is not that important (this is from a highly competitive person). However, I will say because of the pressure we put on ourselves and our kids, we have watered the whole system down. Somehow we have made red ribbons a failure and white ribbons an insult and that is not right. As a judge I will say that we have succumbed to peer pressure and often give out too many blue ribbons. Remember the ribbon color is not a statement about the child or the amount of work they have done, it is just that judge’s opinion at that time. We will revisit this some other time.
My point is that we get too hung up on how the project placed and often let that override the more important things going on at the fair. My moment this fair was when, near the end, I realized that during the entire fair I had fed the sheep once and that was only after being handed the bucket because the child feeding sheep had been summoned for something else. I was relegated to a little used technical advisor and more often a runner for things out of the show box. After much of the pre-fair angst, I discovered my kids were really growing up and capable of doing things on their own without my prodding or nagging.
More importantly I watched as my kids spent time with their friends or worked with younger members and I thought back to my 4-H days and the most important part of fair became crystal clear. I do not remember anything about how any of my projects placed but I still have friends I made during the fair. People and experiences are the most valuable part of any fair not the ribbons or trophies. I guess it is the clarity that the tractor seat brings and the solitude makes you appreciate the true value of the fair. It is a great event, one with much stress and even greater rewards; you just have to take time to realize it.