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Unsung Heroes of the Fair

Even though life has changed dramatically since the second week of March, we were incredibly happy to see one tradition alive and well – the Fremont County Fair.

Admittedly, because of COVID-19, the 2020 edition looked different than it has in the past. All appropriate physical distancing and mask requirements were in place, which meant the Fair spread out over about two weeks instead of the usual one. In addition, the number of attendees had to be kept to a minimum, so few spectators were allowed at many of the events. Despite all the obstacles, the Fair was an overwhelming success!

The Fremont County Fair Board struggled for a few months with major decisions surrounding the Fair. Should we cancel it? Should we limit it? Should we hold it? If so, how can we possibly be successful while adhering to the new rules? Likewise, the Fremont County Livestock Sale Committee was consulted with questions of how it might be possible to hold the Sale.

Those decisions were terribly difficult for these 28 county residents, all of whom have close ties to the Fair. All volunteers, many of them have offered their personal time to serve on the Fair Board for years, and in some cases, decades. They were raised in 4-H, or are leaders in 4-H, or have children or grandchildren in 4-H – or, in some cases, all of the above. These extraordinary folks have a heart for the work they do.

Discussion centered on the 4-H and Future Farmers of America kids themselves, especially once the Open Fair division was canceled. What would they miss out on if the Fair did not happen? And the even bigger question: What might they learn if it did?

For 2020 seniors in high school, this would be their last opportunity to participate in the County Fair. Their last chance to show off their baking skills, to exhibit their photography, to march through the arena with their prized steer. Remember, these are the very youth who already have missed out on so much, including Senior Prom, state tournaments, and a traditional graduation.

The Fair Board, much to the Commissioners’ everlasting praise, ultimately decided to continue with the Fair by making the necessary changes. This year’s crop of kids in 4-H and FFA, from the youngest to the seniors, were handed the opportunity to learn life lessons that typically aren’t part of the Fair.

They learned things don’t always go their way, and how to adapt.

They learned choices can be taken away, and how to move forward.

They learned life hands out disappointments, and how to succeed anyway.

Having participated in 4-H in my own childhood, I remember all the life lessons I learned during those formative years: Responsibility. Patience. Deadlines. Leadership. Quality. This year’s crop of 4-H’ers and FFA’ers came away with all those same lessons, and many more: Resilience. Adaptability. Gratitude. Goodwill. Unity.

We applaud the unsung heroes who made the 2020 Fremont County Fair a success: the 19 members of the Fremont County Fair Board, the nine members of the Fremont County Livestock Sale, every 4-H’er, every FFA’er, their families, 4-H Extension, and everyone else who volunteered their time to make this year’s Fair a success. Lessons learned today will help ensure every youth’s success tomorrow.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Commissioner and current Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.