Continuity, connectionsJul 30, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher
Our county fair relies on those things more than big budgets and showy entertainment
The Fremont County Fair was not spared the budget pressures that squeezed every other element of county government.
No surprise there. The statewide recession has taken a toll on the tax base of every county, but particularly those with dependence on mineral and energy wealth.
We are one of those, and our assessed valuation is about half of what it was 10 years ago.
The fair, which started full blast on Saturday, has had to cut back. One conspicuous target for the cuts has been entertainment. Some fans and fairgoers who checked the schedule say they notice a difference. The grandstand lineup still looks pretty darned good, but perhaps it's missing some marquee power in the middle of the week compared to other years.
Don't sweat that. Really, don't.
We all love the big spectator events, but the greater strength of the Fremont County fair is what goes on outside the arena, not in it.
Our fair flourishes because of the "town and country" effect. Think of the rest of the calendar year in Fremont County. At what other time and place is there an event which brings so many people of so many different stations in life together -- willingly and cheerfully?
Only the fair delivers on this promise. It is a week in which people who make their living on and from the land mix and mingle with those who don't.
It is a time when skills, talents, interests and occupations of individuals from farms and ranches, to offices and warehouses, to desks and loading docks, from schools to churches to club houses, garages, drilling rigs, sewing rooms, art studios and workshops come together to display their handiwork and have it compared to others.
"This is our best." Hundreds of people say it and prove it at the county fair.
Then the gates open and thousands of us stream through them, elbow to elbow, some having just got off work in an office downtown, others driving the pickup in from acreage well outside the city limits. Some are young mothers and fathers holding a little kid by the hand as they get a look at a goat or a pig or a sheep close up for the first time.
Others are grandfathers and grandmothers won a blue ribbon six decades back and still come to the fair, checking the exhibit tags for familiar names and feeling the undeniable, unbreakable sense of continuity offered by another summer afternoon in a quiet, cool exhibit hall.
Those things - the community binders, the links from past to present the future - have very little to do with monster trucks and modern-day showmen who re-create jousting matches from centuries past. Those things give us a welcome interruption from our routines, and they are welcomed for that reason.
But the rest of the fair celebrates the routines themselves, bringing to light the results of creativity, dedication, ingenuity and old-fashioned handiwork that we develop through our everyday lives and every day work.
The recession will ease, and economic conditions in Fremont County will improve. When that happens, we will be the first in line calling for budget dollars to be restored.
In the meantime, we all can take pleasure and solace in the knowledge that one of our great annual celebrations and observances - the Fremont County fair - relies less on budgets and more on human connections.