Pilot Opinion

Thursday, June 19, 2003

A Fairly Great Opportunity

The country isn't as country as it used to be. There's fewer family farms and more farm factories. There's fewer farm kids on fewer rural school bus routes. There are fewer pastures and more sprawling confinements. Less Waylon and more wailing.

Thank goodness for the country fairs, and especially our own Buena Vista County Fair. We need it as much as it needs us.

It's everything we used to be as a society, a living reminder of where we come from. In a world where country isn't so country anymore, it is unabashedly, wonderfully so.

It's talking about the weather over a slice of lemon merange pie that just melts on your tongue. It's a little kid playing tag with a peppy goat. It's a crowing contest and a baby diaper derby. It's a thundering tractor pull and pretty girls hoping to be queen. It's 4-H kids with their chance to shine for a whole year of hard work. It's prize petunias and preserves, handmade quilts and old-timers tossing the horseshoes with that particularly satisfying clank.

It's looking down from the top of the grandstand at the dizzying spin of the midway lights after dark. The splat of a volleyball player diving headlong in the mud. The symphony of soft lowing from the cattle barn. The smell of straw, cotton candy, pork burgers and motor oil, all rolled into one sensory experience.

There is no television, no video games, no Internet. There's no rap music, little politics, and as for fashion - well, frayed overalls and a seed corn cap outdo a suit here any day.

For one week in June, there's a little country in all of us. Suddenly, we have the time to stop and chat with neighbors. We stroll through barns full of animals, and don't even worry about what gets on out sandals. We watch, and appreciate, low-tech entertainment. We don't count the calories, or sweat the pressures of the Dow Jones.

The fair is simple, and God, don't we need a little bit of that. If you can't find a smile here, you aren't trying.

It's about kids, good kids, above all. It's about volunteerism. It's about bringing together towns that may not agree on much else. It's a celebration of the rural heart that made the heartland what it is.

The country isn't as country as it used to be, but the fair is, and thank goodness for it. We would all be a little poorer if we didn't have it each summer.

And yet, what we don't use, we will lose. If we are too busy with the Play Station 2 and our new DVD player to bother with our country fairs, they are going to fade away, consolidate, turn into small 4-H fairs, or just plain quit.

We hope that's never, ever the case in Buena Vista County.

Take a day, at least, to go to the country. Take the kids, or a grandkid, or a grandparent.

Don't miss a slice of that pie. Or a slice of our heritage. The couple of bucks admission has to be the best bargain in entertainment going, and most of the shows are free, to boot.

It doesn't matter much if you've set foot on a farm in your life - we think you'll be glad you came. And just by driving in the gate, you'll be helping to keep the Fair tradition strong in BV County, so that it will be there when the next generation of children need it.

The country isn't as country as it used to be, but there's still a beauty and a dignity and a spirit to it, and we are all a little better for getting a taste of it at least this once a year.

Our thanks to all the people who work so hard to bring this fair to us, all the ones who take part and compete and perform - and all the ones who make the drive to the old fairgrounds. This tradition in neighborliness has been going for 117 years, and it's not done yet.

The country may not be as country as it used to be, but its charm exists still, and it's waiting for us today in Alta.