By Wade Linville
The Brown County Press
Mother Nature’s torrential downpours may have put a halt on some events, but even the rain couldn’t prevent it from being another successful year for the Brown County Fair. The rain and muddy conditions at the fairgrounds did have a significant impact on attendance in the first few days, but thanks to some dedicated Brown County Fair Board members, a hard working crew of staff and volunteers, and die hard fair-goers, the 167th Brown County Fair provided fun and entertainment for all ages.
For the first time since many Brown Countians can remember, rain caused the cancelation of the opening day parade, and for the second time in three years the Brown County Fair’s Jaymie Jamison Foundation Cheer Competition was postponed until late October due to the wet and muddy fairground conditions.
Tuesday’s performance by Ricky Skaggs that was scheduled for the Main Ring was moved inside to the Danny Gray Activity Center.
“Attendance is way down because of the rain,” Brown County Fair Board Director Mitch Erwin said on Wednesday of the fair. “It was kind of a surprise with the amount (of rain) we got here. We talked to one of our vendors and there’s only our fair and another fair in Putnam County that will shut down whenever they get this kind of rain. Everyone else just closes the gates and sends everybody home, but we still have the fair here. The fair goes on.”
No matter how hard she tried, Mother Nature still couldn’t put a complete stop to the long-time fair tradition that carries on in Brown County, as there was much to do indoors at the Little State Fair. And once the heavy rain passed through, outdoor activity carried on as it has in the past.
Junior Fair animal judging and other competitions, as well as the annual auctions, drew large crowds into the fair ground buildings. May fair-goers escaped the rain and mud by walking through the buildings and barns to view the wide variety of Junior Fair projects.
“It’s not the fair without a little rain,” said Erwin. “There are plenty of shows that go on inside, and there’s plenty of cover to get in when its raining to see something.”
Among the main concerns for the Brown County Fair Board, staff, and volunteers was the parking issue caused by the downpours. But with tractors ready for action, pulling out stuck vehicles was something they were well prepared for with the large weekend crowd expected.
“Parking is our problem right now because our parking lot is so wet that we cannot get as many cars as we would like to in the parking lot. We are shuttling from Pamida and the high school, and there is quite a bit of parking at the high school so that helps us out. And we’re running five shuttles, so we’re doing our best to get them in here,” said Erwin. “We’re hoping our parking lot will get the chance to dry up.”
The Brown County Fair is nothing but fun for many youngsters who attend, but for others it is a lot of hard work. For the Junior Fair members involved in 4-H clubs FFA or other similar programs, preparing animals and projects for show and/or auction sale can be very time consuming and challenging. It also involves a lot of hard work and planning for the advisors of local 4-H and FFA organizations, as well as other programs that take part in the Junior Fair activities.
For more than 20 years, Crystal Cahall has headed the Ripley Day Hill Dirt Kickers 4-H Club. Although Cahall’s own children are now grown being involved in her 4-H Club and showing animals at the Brown County Fair, she continues to advise the 4-H Club because that’s what she loves to do.
“I love the kids and I love working with the animals, and teaching them the knowledge I have gained in my lifetime,” said Cahall. “As we all know, we learn by doing.”
Cahall remains busy during the fair, helping out her 4-H Club members prepare their projects for judging while also providing assistance wherever she may be needed. Most importantly, she is there to provide her support for all of her 4-H Club members who have worked hard to prepare their projects for the fair, some projects taking months to complete.
“It is very busy,” said Cahall. “I try to help anyone who needs help.”
Being involved in 4-H provides students with many benefits, most importantly teaching them valuable skills they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
“Any project they choose to take, they will learn life skills,” said Cahall. “They learn to work hard and finish projects on time. Every child that finishes a project is a winner.”
If one thing is for certain, it doesn’t take a week filled with sunny days and pleasant temperatures to make the Brown County Fair a success each year, but it takes the many people who are committed to carrying on the long-time tradition.