With county fairs, including our own, winding down in Nebraska, and the State Fair in Grand Island just ready to heat up, my penchant for observation kicks into overdrive. The journalist part of me just can’t help but see things from a wider view. The observation mode doesn’t have an “off switch,” so even when I’m doing family things or farm things away from my duties at the magazine, I’m still interested in what people are doing and saying and thinking, particularly when it comes to farm and ranch stuff.
With a few more critters being exhibited by our youngsters at our county fair this past weekend, our family spent even more time than usual at the fair, either exhibiting or caring for animals. Certainly, many families are professionals at this kind of thing, hauling numerous large animals to fairs and exhibitions all over the country. Our family has a tough time keeping up with just a few calves and some rabbits.
I noticed this year the ebb and flow of energy among 4-H and FFA families with animals at the fair. It reminded me of my youthful days in those endeavors, and it made me wonder how my parents kept up the pace. On entry day, everyone is excited, happy to see folks you only see once a year at the fair, and working hard to get animals and exhibits in place. This year, with better weather and an improved moisture situation in our county, exhibits were up across the board, so enthusiasm was high.
By the end of the second day of the fair, especially during late evening chores after dark, parents and youngsters are starting to visibly drag. Even the cattle seem sleepy as their owners lead them to the waterer in the dark. Yet, on the morning of third day, as more 4-H and FFA shows kick in again, a renewed energy is visible around the animal wash racks and in the barns. The kids are busy sweeping their alleys and keeping pens clean so herdsmanship judges will be impressed. By that evening however, it seems most families are thinking, “One more day.”
The last day of the fair seems to be a combination of excitement, because of the remaining shows to prepare for; disappointment, because it is the last day of the fair and we don’t want it to end; and relaxation and relief, because we are ready to get home and get back into our routine. Parents and their youngsters might experience all of these feelings in their own ways, but it is visible that they all go through this roller-coaster ride of emotions throughout the fair.
For many families, the fair is their summer vacation. They might hire someone to do chores back home and camp at the fairgrounds to get the full experience. They take days off from work and as many farm duties as they can, so they can take in the entertainment, allow their children to ride the rides on the midway, and not have to run miles and miles down the road to home every night. They can enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and emotions of the fair up close.
With our fair in our rear view mirror now, our children are buzzing about what projects they would like to exhibit next year. They took in ideas by seeing what other 4-Hers had done at the fair, and it got them excited about next season. Last week I wrote here about all of the things farm kids can learn at the fair, but I feel we all gain something different and something special from fairs. For most folks, it is really a great experience of neighborliness and county pride in our youth, our livestock and grain, and our way of life. Now, we are looking forward to visiting State Fair in the coming weeks…
Here is this week’s discussion question. Are you planning to go to State Fair this year? Feel free to share your comments and experiences with us here.
Husker Harvest Days at Grand Island is just around the corner. Get ready for the big show by visiting the HHD website, or by downloading the HHD app.
Check out Nebraska Farmer online for the latest news on the growing and grazing season. Watch for more about FFA and 4-H across the state in the upcoming September print issue of Nebraska Farmer. You can read my new print column – Bow Creek Chronicles – in Nebraska Farmer magazine, or follow Husker Home Place on Twitter. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my “Field Editor’s Report” featuring the positive stories about the families who raise our food. Pass it on!