It's been a bit of a tough year in the hinterlands of Buena Vista County.
The high prices of the ethanol boom have evaporated, farmers apparently have to be worried about being sued by uban Iowans over what's in the river hundreds of miles away from their farms, and an avian flu epidemic has cleaned out once-thriving poultry operations.
If we ever needed a good old county fair, this may be the time.
We could use the distraction. We need something for the countryside to look forward to. We need an event that showcases all that is good about the lifestyle and contributions of rural America. We need a piece of homemade pie.
I would suggest you go to the Buena Vista County Fair.
It's a busy summer, with all kinds of community celebrations, sports and the unexpected addition of a frantic RAGBRAI visit to an incredibly packed July, but please, don't overlook the county fair - the original community gathering.
The fair has value. The fair needs you.
The easy thing would be to let the thing go. To say that people aren't interested in anything but their flat-screens, laptops and cell phones any more. To see the headlines and think that young people these days are more interested in smoking weed than raising a calf or doing a 4H project. To assume that people are too wrapped up in their own lives to volunteer for a country fair, or even make time to drive a few miles to meet and greet their neighbors.
I don't think so. I think we need a fair, and a fair needs us.
A lot of county fairs have fallen on hard times, and chances are, there will be fewer and fewer of them around the country.
Buena Vista County's event has bucked the trend. Thanks to a group of very dedicated volunteers who put in months of labor, our fair this season will be bigger and better than it has been in years.
There will be live music at the grandstand. A carnival on the midway. Several new events from Polynesian dancers to Figure 8 racing to an ugly lamp contest. 4H kids, BVU students and school volunteers out there working to clean up and make the place nice. Show them we appreciate it.
The fair board is doing its darndest to give people here a fair to enjoy and remember. All they ask in return is that people come out. That's it. An afternoon or evening out of your life. So miss a lousy show on TV, or another wasted night staring at Facebook and Twitter, or languishing on plastic seats at the local fast food joint.
Go to the fair. Go to our fair. Use it or lose it. Tell them thanks for working so hard. Have a little old fashioned fun. You might be surprised how much you get out of it.
You know what it costs? A buck. You can have a whole day of fun for a dollar! They set the price as low as it possibly could be so that everyone can afford a trip. Find me a bargain like that anywhere. You think you can go to the theater that night for a buck? Not hardly.
No, the fair isn't sophisticated, edgy or titillating. Thank goodness.
It's cool to be able to stroll through barns and commune with a colt or a lamb or a kid goat. It just is - in our fast, increasingly urban-style lives, there seldom if ever is an opportunity for such a thing. Bring your kids. They should see animals and climb on tractors and watch a fair queen crowning.
Yeah, it's "country." And country is what supports our local economy and way of life, no matter how urbane you think you might be. It would do you some good to watch an Ag Olympics or Baby Contests or a tractor pull or a Pie Baking Contest - or to take part in a community church service at the fairgrounds.
We have to step out of our busy rat-race lives sometime, people. We have to take a breath, we have to see what else is out there.
The fair - our fair - is a great place to do that. Just wander around. Take your time. See, hear, smell - take it in. Talk to folks. People watch. Celebrate where we come from. Go on the Tilt-a-Whirl, but save that homemade pie for afterward, because it's better left in your stomach as opposed to the back of your spouse's t-shirt.
For a buck, get out and support your fair. The more people we can get there this year, the bigger and better it can get in future summers. No one's taking away OUR fair. All we have to do is go, and no one ever will.