By Heidi Lynch
For one week in August the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds will provide the backdrop for the pageantry of the 61st annual Clarke County Fair. There will be music and lights, rides and cotton candy. There will be announcers, derby cars, exhibitions and food—much of it fried. There will be sleek horses, big-eyed calves, fluffy bunnies, just-out-of-the-shell, and still-trying-to-get-out-of-the-shell chicks. There will also be some of those things that accompany the horses, calves, bunnies and newly hatched chicks: dust, mud, manure and all things earthy. And that’s not a bad thing.
I can google “How to curry a horse,” or “How do chicks hatch out of an egg?” and I’ll find that there’s an internet video‑or 2 or 10‑for that. There’s probably an app, too! I can ask my device of choice, be it a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, how to preserve peaches or grow the best pear tomatoes. I can consult Wikipedia on how often to milk a cow, or for the best breed of cow for milking. My boys can even generate a digital approximation of corn on their Xbox gaming system version of Minecraft.
The fair is a world away from all of that. It’s hands on. It’s the nitty gritty, the sights, smells and sounds of life in beautiful, rural Clarke County. Participants share of their time and talent, and we are witness to their efforts. Young farmers will be busy brushing down animals, swatting away flies and carrying feed, their animals on display for all to see. The meticulous stitches on quilts, the deep ruby red jar of strawberry preserves, and the pastel strokes of a watercolor landscape all proclaim: “I am born of time, dedication and creativity.” The fair is a celebration of hard work, skill and craftsmanship and a forum for finding joy and pride in that work.
The week also offers a chance for some old fashioned congregating. It offers us all an opportunity to step away from the myriad screens at work and home, and into community. It gives us a reason for being with relatives, friends, and neighbors. Families will wander the grounds, grandparents indulging grandchildren with caramel apples or an extra turn on the Zipper. Couples, young and old, will stroll past the gaming booths, pausing to try their hand at winning an oversized elephant. Clusters of friends will wait in line for rides or in the stands for the Chase Rice concert. Memories will be shared and new memories made.
Ultimately, the fair is a peek into Clarke County’s singular character; in the midst of booming counties, ours remains unabashedly small town. Clarke has retained something valuable to its sense of self, something that not only draws on tradition but also looks ahead. When my son recently banged his way through the front door, grass clippings clinging to his knees and mud dribbling off of his Crocs, he proudly announced, “I’ve decided to enter my biggest sunflower in the fair this year.”
I handed him a rag for wiping up the mud and then smiled to think that he’ll be making his own contribution to continuity and community. Inspired by what he has seen at the fair, my own little farmer can offer up his unique handiwork for display and inspiration to others. He, too, can someday say to a younger audience, “When I was a kid at the fair . . .” and pass along the baton of tradition.
The fair runs August 9–15, 2015. The Chase Rice concert, the feature entertainment, starts at 8:30pm on August 15. For more information visit www.clarkecountyfair.org.