I’m a writer and I tried to just post a photo for Wordless Wednesday, but I couldn’t help myself… and had to write a few lines, too.

It’s county fair season in our neck of the woods, and our job as farm reporters takes us to a lot of them. Too many, we sometimes grumble, hoping no one hears us.

But reading a “Farmgirl Follies” blog post by Jennifer Kiko made me remember a perspective of county fairs I’d forgotten: The fun, the camraderie and the bliss of county fairs as a kid. And it’s particularly poignant when you experience that thrill vicariously as a parent.

My daughter’s first official year in 4-H (she joined as a Cloverbud at age 5, but youth aren’t allowed to take projects until age 9), she raised a market hog (pictured at right). Squealer and his penmate lived in the Pig Palace at home, and were so loved, they would roll over on their backs like dogs to have their bellies rubbed. That devotion doesn’t mean Annette didn’t understand the purpose of raising the pig, she did. But she worked hard at feeding and grooming and exercising Squealer, getting ready for the fair.

Everything is cool at the fair when you’re just getting started in 4-H. Even mucking out the pig stall and unsteadily maneuvering the heavy wheelbarrow full of straw or sawdust to the manure bin.

Two years later, when my son, Jon, was able to take his first pig to the fair, I honestly think it was the best week of his life, and he never left the hog barn (well, he might have ventured up to the FFA food stand once or twice…). He climbed up on top of the pen fence and sat there. All week. Until I made him go home with me at night.

I wish I could bottle that joy. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, of pride, of self-worth. It’s scary, stressful (what if my pig doesn’t make weight?), strange — but that passes, especially as the older 4-H’ers lend their helping hands of support (I mean, how cool is that — a 17-year-old high school senior is willingly helping a 9-year-old).

I’ve been listening to a series of radio reports on National Public Radio this week regarding high school dropout rates and the young people affected. They’re very well done, and if you haven’t caught them on air, click on that link and listen to them soon. It’s not an inner city-only problem, and it affects all races.

And I couldn’t help but think what the county fair (the adult volunteers, the projects, the teamwork, the fun) might mean in every young person’s life, if they had the chance. The richness of what my children gained through the fair (and 4-H) leaves me, well, almost wordless on this Wednesday.

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.
Susan Crowell
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