Column: U.P. State Fair work already started

ESCANABA — The snow may have just melted, but there is already a flurry of activity from those planning for this year’s fair. The Department Advisory Committee has been hard at work updating and revamping rules; department superintendents are busily making plans for their barns; and the Authority and management are getting vendors, applying for grants, acquiring rentals, and updating the grounds.

Exhibitors, especially junior exhibitors, are hard at work preparing their animals and still exhibits. Leaders are making sure club members are getting all their paper work and samples done on time and learning the latest techniques and rules changes. And the exhibitors themselves are actively maintaining record books and training their animals.

All this work. But many wonder and ask, “What for?” Kids wonder why they spend so much time for ultimately little monetary profit. Adults wonder if they can take all the stress that comes during the fair. My good friend and dairy farmer, Duane Wender, always said the fair was his annual vacation, but he worked harder at the fair than he did on a normal day at home. Why do we keep doing it?

I believe it boils down to one word: community. In an era where the individual is celebrated above all else and unity gives way to personal preference, the fair remains stubbornly connected to the old value of community. The fair is a place where people from all walks of life come together and enrich each other’s lives. Different generations spend time together, sharing and making memories. Friendships are kindled and re-kindled while we take time to learn about each other. For a few days, people realize their common bond as humans is more important than their own preferences and differences. Art, agriculture, entertainment, food, and fellowship are all essential elements to this community.

Clearly, agriculture remains one of the lynch pins of the fair’s success — especially with the growing interest in food production. Exhibitors show their skills with animals, breeding, crop growing, and production. Jr. Exhibitors learn about other species they do not show. Farmers enjoy a chance to be visible in a world where most people’s knowledge of food production is relegated to children’s books and the internet, while non-farmers take the opportunity to learn real farm facts.

And hundreds of citizens and businesses arrive to support the hard work of the youth by participating in the auction of home-raised beef, pork, lamb, goat, and dairy.

The U.P. State Fair’s mere existence is the prime example of community — 15 U.P. counties and the Hannahville tribe working together to make this bulwark of community continue to thrive into its 19th year. So, come and be a part of the community- visit, exhibit, and participate in the U.P. State Fair!

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Ed McBroom is part of the U.P. State Fair Department Advisory Committee