See you at the Luau!

LUSK – County Fair is rapidly approaching and this year’s theme is “Meet me at the Luau!” With many free activities for all ages, this year promises to be a week of food and fun. The week will kick off with the Gymkhana on Sunday, July 28 at 9 a.m. Entries are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 26. Then animals and entries will start rolling in on Monday and Tuesday.

Style Revue is to be held on Monday evening and then kick up your heels at the County Fair dance starting at 8 p.m. Monday night.

If you plan to have a static booth make sure you contact the extension office and reserve your spot. Booth set up and decorating is scheduled for Tuesday morning and there are awards and prizes for those that are the most creative, colorful and stick to the theme.

All non-animal exhibits are due to the fair grounds for judging by Tuesday afternoon. This is for all open class and 4-H projects.

Throughout the week there are shows, contests and free events including a BBQ every night and the pet show on Friday.

Every year I contemplate the history and significance of county fairs in our small towns. County fair has long been the time that field-weary farmers and ranchers cleaned up and came in to town to see who had won the preserve contest that year and who had grown the best radishes. 4-H and FFA members showed off their hard work with their animal and static projects competing, and more importantly learning and bonding with multiple generations of ag producers.

As a lifelong 4-H member and FFA participant I waited anxiously ever year for our county fair. Before I was old enough to be a contestant, we spent county fair in Hot Springs County where my cousins showed sheep and horses. I know they tired of having a “baby” follow them everywhere but they tolerated it well. My memories of early childhood at that fair were those of the horse barn, holding the extra sheep that weren’t in the ring, being proud of the blue and purple ribbons on my Grandma and Aunt’s artwork in the exhibit hall and the taste of concession stand iced tea.

One year, my cousin’s blue ribbon chocolate chip cookies started a bidding war during the baked goods sale. My grandpa was determined to take those cookies home. In the end he won, only to find out he was bidding against her other grandparents at the other end of the lawn. They could have saved themselves the money if they had just looked around to see who they were bidding against but the story was sure good for a laugh later.

I remember how excited I was the year mom and dad finally decided my brother and I were old enough to stay at fair by ourselves (our county fair was held one town over, about 30 miles away and they couldn’t take off the whole week from work). They hauled our camper over and we were given strict instructions and then, freedom! While one or both of them stayed with us every night we were free to roam the fair grounds at our leisure every day after our chores were done. We worked hard, there were herdsmanship shifts in the barn and we were expected to work at least a couple of hours in the FFA lemonade stand but it was so much fun to just hang out and wander the fairgrounds with friends. We watched the shows we weren’t part of, helped friends with fitting their animals, and imitated the older, cooler kids hanging out on at the pens and wash racks.

Mom would always set up a charge account at the 4-H lunchroom and this ensured we would eat at least a couple of nutritionally sound meals since anything away from there came out of our own money. The taste of Lander FFA lemonade will forever be the flavor of county fair for me, and many others.

When I moved to Lusk I was excited to once again get involved with County Fair. As an adult I have come to realize how much I value those “old fashioned” contests and the history that comes with entire families coming in to town to participate in county fair. My own kids now show in the pre-4-H and Cloverbuds classes. I try to have a couple of open class entries every year and while it hasn’t happened yet, I nag my husband every year to enter some of his metal work projects. We attend the barbecues, watch the grandstand events and generally just enjoy chatting with people.

County fair gives us a chance to live at a slower pace. It reminds us of the reasons that we live in a small town and the small pleasures of relaxed conversation with friends over a hamburger while our kids run around wild on the lawn. Of sitting under the grandstands cheering on local horseman in the ranch rodeo and bidding on animals at the livestock sale. There is something soothing about knowing that generations of people have done the same thing year after year at county fairs all over the U.S. and that no matter how hard our times or stressful our politics, county fair will be there to serve us down-home food from the homemakers and reassure us that small town America is alive and well.


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