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The Magic That Is Our County Fair

We just wrapped up our local county fair last week. As I age, I'm increasing struck with just how special an event it is. Here are just a few of the amazing things I routinely see happen at my county fair:

  • Grandpas, grandmas, aunts and uncles travel hundreds of miles to be together as a family.
  • People sit on grassy lawns under shade trees and listen to their local talent sing and perform.
  • Parents can spend $200 in less than 60 minutes and have nothing to show for it except three partially eaten bags of cotton candy, a nacho stain on your shirt, a stomach ache or two, a stuffed bear and a smiling carnival owner.
  • A mother, active in her community and by all accounts a sweet, caring and considerate person, can be transformed into one of the angriest creatures on earth when her child is placed fifth instead of third. They're affectionately referred to as "4-H moms," but the most ferocious of all is the horse-show mom.

    I think horse-show moms get a bum wrap. They really aren't any worse. It's just that in most other events, it's an animal largely being judged, while in the horse show it's largely the kids that get placed.

    The cruelest thing about the 4-H mom tag is, of course, the sexist connotation. In many ways, I could be classified as the worst 4-H mom in history. Yes, I repeat the mantra that we're raising kids not horses and cattle, and I tell my kids we just want to do our best. But there's a part of me that lives vicariously through my kids. That's why it's not incidental that parents shake other parents' hands and congratulate them after a big win.
  • Superintendents will be given special rewards in heaven. Without such community volunteers, a fair couldn't happen. These folks give unselfishly of their time in what's largely a thankless job with little recognition. I suspect the seed of their involvement is the county fair changed their lives for the better and they're just paying the debt forward.
  • At your county fair, do you find your local banker, accountant and attorney sporting cowboy hats and spending the afternoon with their kids? And where else would normally rational and intelligent people who've never ridden a horse saunter to the middle of an arena in front of a thousand of their neighbors and attempt to milk a wild cow?
  • Where else can you find a kid up at 5:30 a.m., still exhausted but thrilled to be working on behalf of one of God's creatures? And don't we all twinge with feeling as we witness tears stream down the face of a young boy or girl loading a beloved steer, lamb, pig or goat on the truck. Mom is usually crying, too, and dad's doing his best to hide it. It's simply ag -- part of the price for being given stewardship of one of God's creatures.
  • I find my county fair a common shared experience with my ancestors. It allows me to reach back and connect with my heritage via an event that's remained essentially unchanged through time.

Don't miss your county fair!
-- Troy Marshall