Our Rural Roots

No Fair Decision

(Progressive Farmer image by Getty Images)

The county fair legacy runs deep for my family. My grandmothers were 4-H Club leaders. My grandpa's name is engraved on a plaque at the entrance of our county fairgrounds. My mom decorated our stalls in the livestock barns and managed fair food, show clothes and judging times for three kids. When I came home from college, I took my dad's spot on the fair board.

My kids arrived at the fair as babies, bouncing on the knee of whomever stopped in the fair office. Today, they manage their projects and other tasks as unofficial fair board members. My husband and I both serve as members of our fair association, making fair management a family project. For us, summer is the county fair.

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So, when our fair association made the difficult decision to cancel this year's event entirely, we felt defeated and braced for the fallout. On social media, volunteer fair boards were bearing the brunt of quarantine burnout. People were angry that beloved summer events were falling to COVID-19 circumstances.

We knew senior 4-H members wouldn't walk in the show ring one last time. We knew tractor-pull fans would miss the excitement trackside. The economic loss experienced by our fair vendors is devastating.

With each COVID-19 cancellation -- the school musical, school year, summer softball, town festivals -- I've said to my family, "If this is the challenge God has given us, then He hasn't truly challenged us." We've let that guide our responses as the disappointments roll in.

As more traditions surrender or modify to fit the new normal, remember to be kind. Thankfully, our fair board received tremendous support from the community and received proceeds from two spontaneous fund-raisers. Kindness takes the sting out of unpopular decisions and fuels volunteers who are building on the legacy left by past generations while crafting the future. In our case, we see this not as defeat but as a way to plan for decades of county fairs to come.

> Katie Pratt writes, tweets, farms and "likes" agriculture from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter @KatiePratt4.

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