In search of a witty, light-hearted column idea, I took to social media (Facebook) and simply indicated I had writer’s block and was in need of some column ideas for this week’s Express.
A former small town newspaper employee I’ve known for quite a while now, replied with an idea that I’ve chosen to run with. Thanks, Justin! (You should always credit your sources. I could have passed this off as my own idea.)
As I write this column, the Delaware County Fair is in the midst of a great weather week. The extended forecast seems to indicate the Great Jones County Fair will see sun, heat, humidity, but hopefully not much rain at all, the way I like it! What’s fair week without humidity and hot temperatures? Covering 4-H and FFA animal shows in the barns would just not be the same…
So Justin and I grew up in Delaware County, attending the fair in Manchester. He’s since grown up, started a family and now lives in the big city of Waterloo. No rural county fairs in Waterloo. You’d be surprised by how many out-of-towners spend fair week as their summer vacation.
Living in Monticello for a while now, I’ve grown accustomed to attending the Great Jones County Fair. It’s a regular summer event here.
Residents in town have gotten used to seeing drones of people in town during fair week. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I’m sure the population of Monticello more than triples in just a few days!
Imagine life without a county fair, as Justin so eloquently put it. Where else could you go see Keith Urban and Little Big Town (both headlining musicians) BOTH for $50 up close and personal? Track tickets for the Saturday night concert at the Jones County Fair sold for $50 and I’m willing to bet no one hesitated to jump at the chance to purchase a spot on the track. I didn’t even give it a second thought! To see Keith Urban alone in concert at an arena, you would probably pay hundreds of dollars for a decent seat outside of the nosebleed section. So $50 is nothing for a great show in your hometown.
What else does the fair bring to a small town community? While hundreds, if not thousands, of people come here for the fair from out of town, plenty of Jones County residents also attend the fair. For me, going to the concerts is a mini vacation. The Express covers every 4-H and FFA show all week long, that it’s a reprieve going to see a concert and enjoy a night off and out of the barns.
Fair week is also not a good time to go on a diet. Fried foods, grilled foods, cotton candy, it’s all so good! While I normally patronize the 4-H and the Lions Club food stands, every now and then I have to splurge.
If you read the feature Express Intern Emily Burds wrote in last week’s issue about Garrett Nietert, then you got a taste for how hard these 4-H and FFA kids work to prepare not only themselves, but also their animals for judging at the fair. It takes more than just the week before the fair to earn the top prize or ribbon and a trip to show at the Iowa State Fair.
These kids know a thing or two about hard work, dedication, time management and a job well done. I’ve never been in 4-H or FFA myself growing up, but I’ve covered my share of county fairs (Delaware, Dubuque and now Jones County). I’ve seen the look on a kid’s face when the judge finally announces the champion of a show. They know all their hard work finally paid off.
When I was in high school and attended the Delaware County Fair, my friends and I always rode the rides. The Zipper was a popular one, where you were strapped two to a cage and flipped every which way around for what seemed like eternity. Everyone wanted to prove how daring he/she was by riding the Zipper. It took just one ride for me to realize I was not cut out for fast-moving fair rides. (Either that or never eat before you prove you’re tough as nails.)
There’s so much to see and do at a county fair. The GJCF stands out as one of the best. Without the fair, how would we count down the summer to the start of the school year? (Sorry kids!)