WHY THE COUNTY FAIR IS SHAPING THE FUTURE OF RURAL AMERICA

 

For those of you who follow closely, you know I spent the greater part of last week taking over the new Sac County Fair Instagram account on behalf of Rural Revival. This was a very fun opportunity for me as the Sac County Fair is my home fair - this is the county I grew up in and where I entered my own 4-H projects as a kid, and where I still know most of the locals by name.

We all look forward to the fair every year for a lot of the same reasons: the fair food, the livestock, the exhibits, the events, the people. But something about the fair this year was different for me. This year it really hit me that these kids we see participating in the fair are the future of rural America. I have mentioned a lot lately that the future of rural America is brighter than ever. This week at the fair only helped to strengthen that viewpoint, and I want to give you a little glimpse into why... 

As I spent time in the livestock barns, I saw older kids jumping in and helping the younger kids, and I saw parents helping kids who were not their own to make sure every kid succeeded at the fair. I saw different 4-H clubs working together at their food stand, knowing that the success of their stand benefits ALL their chapters. I witnessed fair families and fair board members put in incredibly long hours, working tirelessly to make sure the fair experience was the best possible for everyone involved. And I got to have conversations with people I hadn't seen in years, and conversations with new friends I made throughout the week.

Perhaps most moving for me was seeing the local businesses supporting their customers and local town kids at the bonus auction. This auction is the big event at the end of the fair where local businesses bid on each 4-H kid involved in the livestock portion of the fair, and the money raised goes back to each kid to help offset the expenses they incurred to raise their livestock in the months leading up to the fair. 

And to be honest, this whole experience made me well up with pride inside. It was as if this whole event put together all of the things I love about rural America and gave them a chance to shine. 

As I mentioned, I got to have a lot of great conversations throughout the week, but there was one conversation in particular that will forever stand out to me. As I was walking around taking pictures the first day, I noticed a group of boys sitting on a bench and they were all wearing the same hat. Turns out they were all sitting there checking out the fair Instagram account (well done, guys), and their hats were promoting the Sac County Cattlemen. So I took their picture and posted it to Instagram with the caption, "The next generation of Sac County Cattlemen."

 
The next generation of Sac County Cattlemen

The next generation of Sac County Cattlemen

 

Because we were all committed to being at the fair all week, I kept running into these guys and I started to get to know them better. I asked them, "Do you all live on the farm?" They all said yes. So then I asked them, "Do you all hope you can always live on the farm?" The answer was a resounding "YES!" Their smiles in the picture above say it all.

I watched as these boys tended to their livestock all week and I saw them cheering on their friends and wanting them to succeed as much as themselves. I listened as they helped answer my questions and taught me things I didn't know about livestock or the fair. They even started sending me a few pictures they had taken around the fair to help out with the Instagram feed. And I started to see the fair through their eyes, and what I realized is how much the county fair really represents the future of rural America. 

The fair is a result of a year's worth of hard work. And the lessons these kids learn now, the rewards after working hard to raise livestock and animals and create projects, the time and effort they put in to show and present - these are experiences that will have a life-long impact. And if this selfless, team approach to the fair that I experienced takes root in these kids, they will be the ones who will shape the future of rural America into something better than we could ever imagine. 

These kids WANT to live in rural America. In fact, they're planning on it. So it is our job to pave the way to make it possible for them to do so (more to come on that). And as it turns out, the county fair is a great place to start. 

>> Danna Larson, Rural Revival Founder

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Huge thanks to everyone who stopped to have a conversation, who let me take their picture, who helped answer my questions about things I didn't know (Sheep Show, anyone?), and who played a part in making this week at the fair so great!

Check out all the fun on Instagram:
www.instagram.com/saccountyfairiowa

 

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