Sunday, August 9, 2009

Memories of the County Fair...

As I sit on the couch, bored, and Facebook-stalking, it is pretty much impossible to avoid all the talk of county fairs that are going on. Already I have been notified that a pen of lambs bred by the Sanilac FFA were Grand Champion Lightweight Pen at the Eastern Michigan Fair! While that news, along with friends winning multiple species and sweepstakes competitions, is exciting, I'm also forced to recognize the fact that this year will be the first in over a decade that I will not be in attendance for the Sanilac County 4-H Fair.

Sad moment. Okay, I'm better.

Even though I must be in West Lafayette this week instead of at the county fair, it does give me cause to look back over the wonderful memories I've made as a 4-H member. Highlights include (but are not limited to!):
  • 3-time Grand Champion Swine Showman
  • Winning Junior, Intermediate, and Senior Swine Showman
  • Winning Intermediate Sheep Showman
  • Grand Champion Pen of Hogs
  • multiple Grand and Reserve Champion Homebred Hogs
  • two-year 4-H court member
  • Champion Sweepstakes Showman
  • Winning Junior, Intermediate, and Senior Sweepstakes Showman, and
  • member of the GREAT Flynn Hustlers 4-H Club
Above all of this, I have to say that some of my greatest memories involved the people I've met and the fun times I've had just hanging out at the fairgrounds. Whether it was serving ice cream in the Flynn Hustlers Ice Cream Barn, manning the Sanilac FFA Life's Greatest Miracle tent, or getting plastered in mud while cheering on friends during the Demolition Derby--fair has always been a highlight of my summer! On top of all that, who wouldn't want to forget fair "romances", puking after those horrible carnival rides, and that one day of the week when it ALWAYS downpours and makes the parking lot a big muddy mess?!

We are in an age where American agriculture and rural life is under constant fire and criticism. It's good to know that, in Michigan, we still have examples like the county fair to put both of those things on a pedastal of greatness. I, for one, can think of very few places I'd rather be on a hot, sticky summer day than in the barn feeding pigs and shearing lambs. After a show, I once heard someone refer to it as "heaven on Earth".

I think he's right.

Not only is fair a wonderful place, but it is a location where youth learning is going on like nobody's business. Whether you are using your head, heart, hands and health or you are learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live or living to serve, youth are putting their brains and their skills to good use creating projects that will benefit them for a lifetime. It's not only a swine project or crocheting. It's developing abilities and practicing dedication and putting responsibility to the test. Life skills. That is the reason for 4-H, FFA, and the county fair.

Good luck to everyone heading into their county fairs and congratulations to everyone who has already accomplished great things! Cherish your moments on those hot, dusty fairgrounds where the smell of livestock is always thick in the air (fresh air, remember!). Those days will be gone before you know it.