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Which Direction To Take

    The 101st State Fair is over, and it looks to have been a good one. The attendance looked to be good, as the two big concerts sold out. James Goodrich and his staff must have had a busy year preparing for the event as there was a lot going on.

     One doesn’t realize just how much is going on unless you start at the beginning and go through the whole program – from the Ft. Fetterman Remount Horse Sale Review on Aug. 9 to the ninth to the Annual Pioneer Ball on the evening of Aug. 17, nine days were filled with numerous activities that take lots of planning, volunteers and money.

The State Fair is really fortunate that there are coalmines and an oil and gas boom in Converse County, as without it, it could be a rough go. We all need to thank the big sponsors of the State Fair as we connect with them during the course of the year. Because of them, we really have a state fair.

Some states have given up on state fairs as they cost too much money, and the interest from the ag community dwindles as more people leave rural areas for towns and cities. Promoting agriculture was not a priority for state legislatures as their state budgets are getting smaller and the pride in agriculture is diminishing. State fairs will never pay for themselves without state funds. While they are great venues for local, large companies to showcase themselves to the public, it will still take some state funds to stay alive. 

So is a state fair all about money these days? We know it does take a good deal of money to produce a fair, but what is the real purpose of a state fair? Is the fair there to showcase agriculture, generate funds for the state and be an agricultural trade show, or is it to promote agriculture to a public that understands agriculture less and less? Is it there to educate the public on agriculture and showcase 4-H and FFA as a learning opportunity for the youth of the state?

I think the truth is that a state fair’s main purpose is the 4-H and FFA events, but in reality, one doesn’t need a state fair to hold those events – we would just need four or five large barns and show rings to accomplish that. At the same time, a state fair certainly does complement the youth activities. The two just go hand-in-hand, don’t they? 

The big question is for us is what do we want from our state fair in the next 100 years. We know for sure that we want a strong 4-H and FFA presence, and we want the rodeo and related events. The PRCA rodeo seems to be going downhill. Would a new stock contractor fix that, or do we need a larger added purse to get the top contestants to come? What does it take to get people in the grandstands? The Ranch Rodeo has them filled. And what do we want to see on the Midway – people selling everything or people promoting and educating about agriculture and the food we produce? We don’t have 100 years to decide.