County fairs ready to shine in rural communities

Dave Bergmeier

People in many parts of the High Plains are seeing a return to live events, and one of the signatures—county fairs—will be welcomed with open arms.

To the credit of 4-H and FFA organizations, county agents and many others, a year ago fairs were conducted as “closed” events so youth could continue to experience the benefit of competition against peers. Competition helps improve the entrant and also teaches the importance of integrity, grace and diplomacy.

Still, the one drawback in the year of COVID-19, competition was not on display to the general public as grandparents, extended family and those who have a long-standing appreciation for fair competition were not able to watch in person. This year will be different. Regardless of the reason, a person who attends a fair is participating in history and sharing a compelling story, which is that farming, ranching and rural communities matter. When we watch youth compete it provides a time to reminisce about our own past, appreciate the present and feel optimistic about the future.

The county fair provided an ideal time of reunion and get-togethers. Numerous examples are found throughout the High Plains where homespun carnivals—powered and maintained by local businessmen and organizations—have thrived because those men and women understand the vitality and connections. As rural residents please take the time to offer support and donations because they exemplify the “can-do” spirit to address an immediate need.

Lessons like that are forever ingrained in all of us about why it is important to help youth. The return of the live events should provide an opportunity for fair-goers to encourage our future community leaders.

Every county has stories about people who grew up on farm but now have a job in town and take a week of vacation to volunteer at a fair. That commitment puts a tangible bow on how these men and women feel about their local fair. How hard it must have been for many of them a year ago when the pandemic left organizers with no choice but to tell them they will have to wait this one out.

This year offers an opportunity to show our appreciation to those people.

Busy lives, the weather, vacations and other time conflicts are all common examples people often cite why they did not attend a local fair. All of those can be viable. Free fairs means there is no admission, which too often can usher in a thought that missing a fair is not a big deal. However, the past year has reminded us that many of those activities must not be taken for granted.

The joy of going to a fair is upon the High Plains and it is a welcome sight.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].