Regardless of the content of my stories, I am a big county fair supporter. I’ve written about this before so I won’t belabor that point.
Under the heading of “other duties as assigned,” I’m responsible for coordinating the fair supplement in this week’s paper. It makes sense because the county fair is my beat; I cover the board meetings and all the news centered on the fairground operations, whether it’s “The Fair” or missing septic tanks.
Putting together the supplement involves gathering stories from our editors in Chester, Greenville and Portola, as well as liaising with fair staff for schedules and other information.
I also lay out or dummy the fair tab, as we call it, and pass it on through the publication process.
My burning question every year around this time is: How many pages? I have to guesstimate how much copy I need to fill the pages.
The answer to “how many pages?” depends on the number of advertisements and this year there are fewer and smaller ads.
This year, it’s a tight fit, only 16 pages. Given the times, that’s not too surprising.
What is surprising this year is the most often cited reason for not advertising: “It’s the Quincy fair.”
Gosh, I’ll bet the 4-H families in Portola, Chester and Indian Valley would be surprised to hear that.
If you’ll check out the tab this year, you’ll see the stories share a common theme: 4-H.
Plumas and Sierra counties’ 4-H and Future Farmers of America members raise animals from rabbits to turkeys and pygmy goats to steers for wool, milk or meat production. They start with young animals that they will feed, groom and train right through to showing, expending hours and hours of effort.
Not only do they raise the animals, they also learn the science behind rate of gain, conformation, market qualities and training techniques. They learn about showmanship and responsibility. In short, they learn that work is the way of the world: you don’t get a champion goat by accident.
Other members are making quilts, baking and decorating cakes and bread, growing vegetables, preserving food and taking pictures. They produce art, poems, music and so much more.
These kids aren’t just showing off livestock, sewing, baking and art; they’re showing what they’ve learned. They are developing skills and experience that will take them through life. They are learning to contribute to the community they live in.
When adults dismiss the county fair as the “Quincy Fair,” they are dismissing the youth in their own communities.
When they dismiss the fair, they are telling their children that their efforts are not important, that they don’t matter.
Is that really the message they want to send? Probably not, but it’s the one that’s received.
Don’t mistake me, this is not about the paper’s advertising revenue. This is about enthusiastically supporting community.
Elsewhere in the paper, I have a story about a grassroots Quincy reunion on Facebook. The idea behind it is that people who grew up in Quincy remember it fondly. They want to support the town in some way. People who have not been home in years are coming home for the fair.
Faithful readers will know that I haven’t always lived in Quincy as an adult, but I never forgot Plumas County. I regularly came back for the fair, especially when my nephew was showing his 4-H lambs. I was proud of him and made the effort to show it.
When I was in college in Southern California, I was homesick for the mountains. When I lived in England, I missed the clean fresh air and sunny skies.
Now I’m here again and I still love it here. Most of us living here choose to do it. When I visit friends in Sacramento, I’m astonished anew at how much time is spent in traffic, how many hours are wasted at stoplights, finding a parking place or standing in line.
We don’t have that here. We have communities where, as the song goes, everybody knows your name and I think we’re the better for it.
As you read the 4-H stories, notice the excitement and pride that shows in the pictures. We should be as excited, proud and committed. If we don’t support our kids, who will?