No, not Christmas. I’m talking about fair season and only a select few people will know exactly what I’m talking about.
My family has dairy cattle and horses, so I spent a lot of time at the county fairs around Illinois. Every weekend we were hauling to a different county fair to show the horses — Georgetown, Coles County, Crescent City, Farmer City and Kankakee, just to name a few. We went to state fair, the section FFA fair and the national show with our Jersey cows.
Logan County, an annual event for our family, was always the most interesting because the horse show was the same day as the open Jersey show. My sister and I would trade off each year with one of us showing our stock in the horse show and the other showing our cattle in the Jersey show. And, trust me, there was always a lot of running back and forth between the racetrack and the dairy barn. And curly fries with vinegar — because that’s the way Grandpa ate them — from the vendor next to the show barn.
My sister and I spent our summers going from fair to fair, running into the same people at each fair. We made friends. We cared for our animals. We got up early and went to bed late. We slept in the barns. We went to concerts. We clipped cows and washed horses. And while that all sounds like a lot of work (and it was), it also was a lot of fun.
Every weekend it was the same routine. And it was a routine that taught a multitude of life lessons. Staying up half the night to wash a band horses because you know it won’t get done if you don’t do it? That’s one heck of a lesson in responsibility. Knowing the entry free is $10 per class and making the decision to pay it anyway because the payback is high enough and your horse has been working well? That’s a lesson in money management — no matter if you get the gate or win the class. Spending a week at State Fair, in 100 degree weather, walking the show string, washing cattle and spending the day in the show ring with manure up and down your leg? Well, that’s a lesson in commitment and hard work.
I loved every minute of county fair season (even if my mom tells you she can remember several instances when I didn’t love every minute). I even liked the manure up and down my leg. Heck, it was a badge of honor. I can’t wait for my kids to experience the same water fights, the same lumpy, roll away beds, the same after-the-fair colds and the same late nights and early mornings.