Imagine the week before a very special event in your life. Something you have waited all year for. Counting down the number of days, which seem like the longest day of your life, til you can be where you have wanted to be. I have this feeling every year in the month of July, when the Barry County Fair just around the corner.
The week when my family and I get home, after fair, we don’t even want to think about next year. All the work that has to be done, all the meetings we must attend every month, and having to communicate with people, who we just spent all week with, when really just don’t want to even see them for a couple months. But even if the week after the Barry County Fair no one want to even think of the next year; everyone, no matter how many years you’ve been involved and how much you hate all the work, can’t wait for the next year. Once you attend the first 4H meeting, something about it just fills you with excitement. And if you’re anything like me you create a countdown, because of the the amount of excitement you have.
It seems that as the more meetings you attend the more excited you become, wanting the days to go by fast so you can just be in your so called “happy place”. The more and more closer it gets to fair the more stuff that need to be done. Having to prepare the animal or animals you are taking becomes a more daily task as you get closer, making sure that the animal you take doesn’t misbehave. After you start to realize that you are down in the barn more than you are in the house means that the Barry County Fair is right around the corner.
Then the next thing you know you are a week from the Sunday you weigh in the animals. All the sudden all that excitement turns into nervousness. How can all the excitement you had a couple weeks ago all the sudden turn into nervousness? Well all the years I’ve been in 4H I have experienced my pigs being to heavy or to light and almost not being able to show at the fair. So when you're a week away from weigh in you start to worry your animal won’t make it in, you either end up walking your animals what seems like non-stop for 7 days or you are basically shoving food down the animal. Then comes Saturday, the night before weigh in, the night where you have to make a decision whether or not you need to either take the animal away from food and water or feed them a ton of watermelon. Now I bet your asking out of all things why watermelon? Because watermelon is a watery fruit it helps them gain weight, for a little while. Now I suppose we could just get the animal to drink water but it is definitely easier to get them to eat.
It's 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning, there is still dew on the grass, you can hear birds quietly chirping with one another, the sun is justing starting to peek up from the horizon. Grandpas on his way with the trailer to pick up the animal to take them to the Barry County Fair. This day is probably one of the only days I would ever get up this early, if you’ve ever been in 4H you know what I’m talking about. Something about putting on your filthy rubber boots and some old hammy down sweatshirts and shorts, even though it's still quite chilly outside, makes the morning seem enjoyable. At first the morning seems slow, you still feel that the fair is a lifetime away, but then the washing process starts. The firsts couple animals you wash you go slow and making sure you get every last spot, depending on the animals you take you could be washing, brushing and blow drying or it could just be simple clean ups. But as your time slips away you begin to rush through the rest just trying to make them look like a pig, or a cow, or whatever the animal is suppose to be. It’s now 6:25 a.m., waiting to see you the red truck and trailer coming down the road so you can get the animals loaded. Now is the time to eat something, otherwise you might not eat til dinner. Finally at about 6:40 you see the flash of red coming down the road. Load up the animals, take a quick break before we get on our way.
Eight a.m. at the Barry County Fair ground, weigh in started at 7, and we got here at 7:15. Every couple minutes another person is finally in the barn and we can move forward a little bit. Either quick hop on the trailer and hold on or just walk behind as we inch the trailer a little closer. Its really not a long wait but it seem like 2 years have gone by. While we are waiting to move again, we sneak around other trailers, peeking in on the animals to see if they look close to the same size as ours. Finally up to the door, cousins and I go into the barn and make sure the right animals get into the right pen. Not evening counting the number of animals to make sure they are all getting in, just putting one in at a time. Chasing animals down the allies, getting pinned between an animal and a pen. We realize that no more are coming, turn around and notice that each pen has all animals that are suppose to be there. Breathing out in relief, all high fiving one another.
Finally and officially in. It's still only Sunday night but still feels good to be here in the so called “happy place” all us 4H’ers know as the Barry County Fair. The week has officially started, meaning that every 4H’er young or older has to get up early to take care of the animals before 9:00 a.m. before all the people start rolling in. The first day you get up, you get up super early, quick brushing your hair and putting on some decent clothing, getting to the barn as fast as possible to beat the rush of the other showman, just so you can get the work that needs to be done earlier. Although this doesn’t carry on long, as the week continues on the later and later you get up til eventually you are just getting to the barn at 8:30 a.m. The animals and their pens all need to be clean at 9:00 a.m., meaning that it is a very chaotic barn. Animals running all over the place, tripping the young showman, wheelbarrows rolling up and down the aisle. It has just turned 9:00 and you are finishing up the chores and just walking out of the barn, realizing that you are just a mess. You got up and basically just put your old rubber boots on and threw your hair up into a messy bun.
It’s funny you know, I can remember first getting into 4H, and getting up early, but making sure I didn’t look like I had never took a shower or brushed my hair. I look back and wonder why I ever took that much time to get ready when I was just gunna get all dirty again, but I didn’t want my 4H friends to think I was gross or disgusting. But I have now spent 8 years with these people, and I could careless what anyone thinks, in fact we all know where each other is coming from when we walk into that barn a hot mess.
Another thing about 4H friends is that they are the only ones that actually feel the same excitement as you at the fair. I can remember inviting friends who don’t show at the fair and them only thinking that the food, the rides and the grand stand events were great. But any 4H’er will tell you that years being there the rides, the grandstands and even the food are just little great things about the Barry County Fair. To all showman the greatest moments at the fair are showing up to a 4 hour barn duty not only to take care of the barn and animal but to spend quality time with other showman that you only see that week at fair. Sure 4 hours can be a long time in the barn but when you are playing euchre or some other card game that time sure does go by fast. Another thing only 4H friends understand is show day.
Show day can be a very stressful and exhausting day. It seems like all day you are running around either to get your animal ready and get out in that ring and show your little heart out or running out to the show stands to cheer on your other showman. All of us know that feeling of being out in the ring. It’s almost like you're in a whole different world. Life seems so calm, that is if your animal corporates When you're out in that ring you just never want it to end. Now show day is great, yes I agree, but sale day is more important.
Sale day is full of excitement and sadness. Now I bet you're wondering how one day can feel both excitement and sadness when they are two completely different things. It is very exciting at first, it’s the day you get a reward out of all your hard work, the finally day then you can have a break from it all. But all us 4H’ers know that the second you get out of that show area you are full of sadness. You have to say goodbye to not only an animal but a pet, that you have put a great deal of work into. You have to say goodbye to the greatest week of the year. You have to say goodbye to the friends you won’t see til next year. At this moment you want to sit with your friend and talk about the past week, reminisce on the good and bad times, and possibly cry cause it is all over til next year. But you wake up Saturday morning and realize that there is only 360 days til the next Barry county fair.
To me this is my special event that I wait all year for. I wait all year to be in my so called “happy place” the Barry County Fair. The place that shouts so much more than just a county a fair. A place where you learn life skills, a place where your with your forever friends, a place where you will make memories you will never forget, A place you will look back on with all your old 4H friends and say “Man, them sure were the good ole days.”