Getting the blues

Realizing that I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do, I took a deep breath, leaned against a display table and relaxed. The time on my watch said, ‘five thirty’. Since getting up that morning, I’d been racing around gathering beans, beets, carrots, butternut squash and eggplant from the garden. Then, picking out my best specimens of the same size, I attached the entry tickets to their containers.

I’ve come to dread fair entry day. No matter how hard I try to prepare in advance, there is always a scramble to get everything ready. I know my stress levels would lower if I would just stop entering vegetables that need to be picked, dug up, cleaned and sorted at the last minute before being transported to the fair. I can’t make myself do that, though. I have a garden and like to show off my produce.

After rooting through the garden, I ignored my foggy, salt-stained glasses to gather the breads, rolls, cakes and cookies I’d baked. Then, rummaging through my treasure box of crafts, I retrieved projects I’d created during the winter; frosted glass, paper mache and ornaments.

One of my biggest complaints is that fair entry day is always hot. By the time I arrive at the fairgrounds to submit my entries, I am awash in salty streams of sweat. My hair and clothing are sopping wet. I look and feel like a wreck. Even if the day is cool and rainy, the day is always hot to me.

My cool, calm, collected daughter gets wound-up on fair entry day, too. Not that you can tell by just looking at her. As I rested, Niki was busy delivering her own entries to various tables in the exhibition building. Beside me at the table where I was leaning, were her middle children, Ben, Luke and Jacob.

Ben asked, “Grandma, what color is the first-place ribbon?”

I answered, “Blue…” Knowing what his next question would be, I added, “and second place ribbons are red.”

Having recovered a bit, I began to look around. Some of the floral entries other people had brought in were fantastic. Fairy gardens appeared to be a popular item. One was in an old Red Flyer wagon, another looked was planted in a huge snow saucer. I saw boots and purses repurposed as flower pots. If the fair gave out ribbons for shear size, a huge potted begonia would have been the winner.

Sometimes I worry that the old-fashioned fair with competitive entries are a disappearing phenomenon. I remember when there were always many jars of canned goods competing for the blue ribbon. Today there were only a few in each category. In the past there were so many it was hard to see them all. Today there were only a few dresses hanging on display in the home sewn clothing area. Years ago the bakery cupboards would have been stuffed; this year each entry had plenty of room on the shelves.

Taking a quick turn through the fairgrounds I saw the 4H building was busy, full of displays. I thought, “That bodes well for the fair’s future.” All the cages in the small animal barn were full. In the cow barns dozens of farm boys and girls were grooming cattle, feeding them and cleaning up after them. Some of the farm kids were taking naps in the hay alongside their prize-worthy animals.

As I drove home I mulled the future of fairs. I thought, “Times change. Many modern people don’t know how to bake good bread, sew beautiful clothing for themselves or knit sweaters to wear.” I wondered, “Will towns eventually stop holding fairs?”

A memory popped into my mind. Someone once said to me, “People don’t read much anymore. If they do, they buy Kindle books. Libraries are old fashioned and someday they’ll disappear.”

That woman was wrong. I smiled as I thought about my daughter the librarian. Through her I see libraries as moving and changing with society by loaning audio and kindle books and providing computers to use. Some have Makerspaces, equipped with 3 D printers, laser engravers, audio and video recording equipment.

There’s no reason for fairs to come to an end. Instead of displaying bakery, canned goods and needle work, they may begin displaying 3D figurines, vinyl cut-outs and laser burned art, because there’s one thing that never changes about people. They love getting the blue ribbons!”






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