Not just fair — it’s great!


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



The moon was full. The words “full moon” don’t really describe the beauty and brightness of that giant, Saturday night glow in the sky.

It was bright enough to light the darkness that invaded the few dark spots that were scattered around the Clinton County Fairgrounds.

On my way to the back parking lot, I walked past trailers filled with food vendors, supply vendors and vendors of hand-crafted hats, belts, nick-knacks and do-dads that filled the gaps around the Cattle Barn and the Sheep Barn.

As I walked, I realized it wasn’t just the beauty of the night that made that short walk special — it was the sounds and smells of the 2017 Clinton County Fair that brought a degree of magic to the place.

In the distance, I could hear music and children’s laughter as young-hearted people rode the merry-go-round, mini-train rides and played the carnival games that filled the northern end of the fairgrounds.

The distinct sound of car engines revving-up as they charged across the dirt infield and crashed into each other, mingled with the cheers from the grandstands for each loud impact, gave everyone on the western end of town assurance that the demolition derby was in full gear. Country-western music from the Richard Lynch Band filled any blank spots in the sounds coming from the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds were also filled with special smells — some of it was coming from my left shoe. I had just left the cattle barn where it’s hard not to step in something smelly.

Two of the grandchildren had just shown cattle in the pee-wee showmanship competition. The champion’s award now belonged to one of our granddaughters.

Smiles, hugs and love filled the cattle barn as parents, advisors and grandparents congratulated all the 4-H kids on their hard work and showmanship. Truly, they were all winners in their achievements.

For over 200 years, generation after generation of Clinton County residents have anchored their roots in the rich soil of the countryside.

This devotion to the land has prompted families to pass on their traditions of farming from generation to generation. This commitment to teaching our next generation the lessons of our fathers and grandfathers is embodied in the fairs commitment to 4-H.

The 4-H pledge is amazing in its simplicity. The youth are trained to recite the pledge at their official meeting. “I pledge my Head to clearer thinking; my Heart to greater loyalty; my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

The 4-H program commitment to larger service and better living is huge. That is what strengthens families and communities.

We have a better, stronger community because of the values and knowledge that are being passed to our next generation of farmers.

Besides the values and knowledge that are key to the 4-H program, friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime are starting and strengthening this week as the young people at the fair work together, play together and experience the joy of the Clinton County Fair.

As the week wears on, the adults and children will slow down a little. We will see kids napping in the barns as they lay beside the livestock they have brought to show. Adults will try to catch a few winks in lawn chairs that will be stretched out in the shade of their campers.

Things will begin to slow down at the county fair, but the smiles will endure. Even while napping, the smiles will be visible on the faces of our children and grandchildren.

Thanks to the year-long hard work and commitment of the fair board members, the numerous 4-H advisors and the dedicated parents of the 4-H participants, our children will learn lessons that they will someday pass on to their own children.

That’s part of the beauty of the Clinton County Fair. The fair strengthens our community and helps assure our future. We cannot say thank you enough to all the parents and adults who make this possible.

I expect to see some exhausted faces at the fair this coming Saturday.

There will be plenty of smelly boots and dirty jeans on the kids and adults.

But you can rest assured that there will also be plenty of big smiles on those tired, dirty faces.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist