A&L: Fair time rolls around again
August 6, 2010
County fairs have been around for a long time.
They had roots in rural communities, providing opportunities for neighbors to get together and show off crops, livestock, home-canned produce, and needlework.
Making fairs even more exciting are competitions and attractions such as carnivals.
Over the years, 4-H and FFA livestock competition became an integral part of county fairs.
This year, Colorado 4-H celebrates its 100th year, giving one an idea of how long 4-H has been associated with this state's county fairs.
But, one thing's for sure. No matter where county fairs are held, "fair time" probably means:
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• Polishing up jars of jams, jellies, pickles, and other home-canned foods, getting them ready for judging.
• Picking 12 pole beans, 12 pod peas, or three petunia blossoms of uniform size for competition in the horticulture division.
• Marveling that a neighbor already has tomatoes and zucchini ready to pick.
• Sharing thoughts with other exhibitors as to solutions to grasshopper, deer, raccoon, and skunk problems.
• Baking cookies and breads the night before competition, hoping there won't be a "flop."
• Checking a quilt for loose threads and finding just the right frame for a favorite photo, getting ready for open class judging.
• Checking out the fair book for entry information.
• Waiting around on judging day to see if the giant Lego tower, built during the winter, wins a blue ribbon in the crafts division.
• A brisk business for food vendors on the midway, where fairgoers can buy hamburgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and snow cones.
• Riding the mechanical bull.
• Browsing the display of tractors on the midway.
• Trying to win an animal during the catch-a-pig contest.
• Finding a missing youngster in the rabbit/poultry barn.
• Early mornings and late nights for fair participants.
• The politicians will have set up booths.
• Busy wash racks at the livestock barn.
• Trying to keep a safe distance from water fights on the wash racks.
• Busy blocking chutes where show cattle are clipped, tails fluffed out, and hooves polished.
• Busy lamb tables where show lambs are groomed.
• Making sure the show box is filled with combs, brushes, clippers, show halters, and other supplies needed for the livestock show.
• Polishing up last year's belt buckle and hoping to win another this year.
• Making sure the brand inspection papers are in order.
• Remembering these words: "Keep your eyes on the judge."
• Listening to the rain as it falls on the barn roof the night of the Junior Livestock Sale (because it often rains then).
• Grown-ups being there to help grab that steer who, tired of standing too long, decides to pull away from a youngster and run around.
• The familiar sight of ring men and auctioneers who try, year after year, to get the best prices for kids' animals during the Junior Livestock Sale.
• A lot of tears the night of the Junior Livestock Sale as kids say goodbye.
• Being a spectator at roping, bull riding, tractor pulls, and other special fair attractions.
• Adorable toddlers dressed in cowboy hats and boots, ready for the Cowboy Baby contest.
• A lot of proud parents and grandparents.
• Learning to be a gracious winner and a good loser.
• Learning from mistakes.
• Helping others.
• Volunteering to be a "watcher" in the pavilion.
• Being happy that a neighbor won the blue ribbon for best pickles.
• The delicious "smells" of meat cooking the day of the community barbecue.
• A lot of "handing out ribbons" work for fair queens and attendants.
• Proud 4-H members as they show off their ribbons at the General 4-H Division displays area.
• Kids leading dogs, just finished with competition, around the fairgrounds.
• Looking around at exhibits and thinking, "I could have entered my jar of strawberry jam."
• A lot of "next year" talk.
• Realizing that hard work pays off.
• For many, looking forward to exhibiting at State Fair.
• Saying thank you to the many volunteers who make the fair successful.
Copyright Diane Prather, 2010.