Our Rural Roots

All Is Fair in Our Family

Image by Getty Images

Farming is in our family’s genes, but this time of year, we can be found in our well-worn jeans at the annual county 4-H fair.

Some counties host 4-H shows separately, but in 1962, the committee who founded our fairgrounds decided the grounds and the fair were for the 4-H kids. Every decision the fair board makes today is still driven by that commitment.

The threads of our family involvement read like the fabric of our lives. My great-grandfather was a member of that founding committee. My grandfather was a ready volunteer. My father served as a board member through my 4-H years. Sixteen years ago, I stepped into a board meeting as a guest and left an official member. Shortly thereafter, “My Farmer” joined the board.

My childhood summer nights were spent at the fairgrounds painting, raking, building, cleaning. Projects were plentiful, and so were the families who showed up to work and fellowship. We found innocent trouble, first loves, teenage angst and lifelong friends. There were no amusement rides at the time, so we gathered in the livestock barns for rousing card games, water fights and deep conversations of the teenage kind.

My commitment to 4-H stems from family legacy, as well. Generations of my family have served as club leaders and have been 4-H members. My children are current 4-H members and serve as unofficial leaders to the 22 members of my 4-H Cloverbuds (pre-4-H) club.

Our summers are consumed with fair preparations. An inordinate amount of time is spent securing details, from today’s flashy midway to the necessary Porta-Pottys. When those behind-the-scenes details begin to weigh us down, I have only to recall my own childhood memories.

I still believe fairs can be a place where card games trump social media, conversations mean more than a text and future generations are inspired to keep the legacy of volunteerism alive.

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