In my family, we have only a few “traditions.”

Traditionally, we gather for holidays and kids’ birthdays. It might not be on the day of the holiday or the exact birthday, but we try to get together when we can. With four generations, trying to get all schedules to jive can be difficult, but we make it work. 

Like many farm families in the Ozarks, our county fair is one of our family traditions. My brothers and I showed at the fair in our younger days, now their children and grandchildren are hitting the show ring. Aunt Julie is always proud of them, no matter how they place. My Dad was the hog chairman for decades, with my mom right there too. I was the dairy cattle chair many years and we all pitched in where needed, even if that meant my bothers spending a long, hot night loading and unloading concrete blocks on a sled for a horse pull. 

Our fair also has a youth division for fine arts, home economics, horticulture and such. Kids are excited to walk into the building after judging is complete to see what they have won. Participants in those divisions don’t have to be from a farm to enter. Kids can enter drawings, pictures, flowers, even cookies and cupcakes. Every child in our county has the opportunity to win a ribbon at our little fair, and get a few bucks for their work. Both of my sisters in law and my oldest niece are, or were, teachers, so it’s not unusual to hear, “Mrs. Turner (or Mrs. McCorkill)! Come see what I did and my ribbon.” 

My family is prepping for yet another year at our county fair. I’m sure we will see some goats and maybe even a Hereford from my nieces and nephew, and everyone will likely have something in the youth building. I entered a few things in the youth division when I was a kid, but I quickly learned I’m not a great cook/baker, I can’t grow pretty flowers, I can’t draw, I can’t sew and any vegetables I might grow aren’t typically “attractive,” so it’s best if I stayed in the barns. 

I don’t help out with the fair like I once did, but I am the “official photographer,” so I will be there for every show, trying to ramrod kids, animals, county queens and princesses, and sponsors all into one picture that not only makes the people look good but the animal as well. I’ll line up kids from the youth division with their ribbons and projects to take their pictures too. My contribution isn’t much to our local fair, but I feel it’s the least I can do for an event I loved so much to participate in when I was a kid. 

Many of our county fairs, as well as larger shows and community events/festivals, are canceled this year in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Even the World Dairy Expo is casualty to the crisis. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry, but that doesn’t mean participants aren’t disappointed.

Experts say face masks and social distancing are here to stay, making it our new normal. It could also mean more community events will be altered in some way, or simply canceled, including livestock shows. That’s something I don’t want to think about because we need to continue with our old normal for as long as we can. 

There have been only a few years over the last 35, 40 years when my family hasn’t shown at our small county fair or at least been at the fair doing something, so it would be hard to let go. It is, after all, a tradition.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected].


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