To be frank, the Summit County Fair is in transition. You could say it is a little bit like an adolescent, trying to establish his or her grown-up identity. But by visiting the fair this weekend, you can help shape its development.
During the county's agricultural heyday, the fair was an integral part of the East Side's cultural exchange. Coinciding with the height of the harvest, it offered farmers and ranchers a chance to share bits of wisdom and lore, to size up the competition and show off their kids' livestock-tending skills. It was also an important opportunity for homemakers to share recipes, gardening advice and sewing tips.
But, as the county shifted from agriculture to industry and farms gave way to subdivisions, the fair drew smaller and smaller crowds. There were fewer entries in the home arts competition and fewer visitors to the midway.
The livestock auction continued to draw bidders, though, and the fortunes raked in by the youngsters who raised the prize-winning sheep, hogs and steer, went a long way toward paying for college tuition. So the fair continued.
Recently, however, fair organizers decided the event was ready for a fresh face. Subtle changes have been in the works for a couple of years, but this year Summit County brought in some new event organizers in hopes of attracting new fans. They hired Travis English, who brings experience in boosting membership for such organizations as The Kimball Art Center and Kimberly Kuehn, one of the founders of the hugely successful Park Silly Sunday Market.
The Fair Board is hoping that by introducing some new ideas they will invigorate the event, without losing sight of its unique cultural heritage.
Their timing couldn't be better. Nationwide there is longing to return to the era of home-grown foods and locally-sourced meat and produce. There is also a newfound interest in sustainability, in returning to our agricultural connections with the land.
If that sentiment pulls a heartstring, set aside some time this week, beginning on Thursday and continuing through Saturday, to visit the Summit County Fair in Coalville. There will be inspiring examples of classic home arts like quilting, flower arranging and baking, as well as a livestock auction (to benefit local kids) and those small-town carnival rides you thought you had forgotten.
For more information on the full schedule, log on to: www.summitcountyfair.org