The fair is always a place for memories

I’m not sure I remember specific details about my first Buffalo County Fair almost two decades ago, but I remember feeling welcomed. I also remember being energized by the camaraderie and collaboration that was part of my early years here working in partnership with so many volunteers.

This year’s fair theme is an opportunity to take a walk down memory lane. For me, that includes people and learning experiences that have built a strong foundation for youth development in Buffalo County.

One of my first memories is of honoring Rudy Christ in his final year at the Buffalo County Fair after 44 years of dedication and leadership. This is vivid for me because I recall the warmth that radiated from the fair office as all those Rudy touched shared memories of his impact.

I also have memories of trying to fit rebuilt tractors in the crops building, when our most talented 4-H mechanical science youth spent months making them just right to use for work and for show.

I remember the first time the barn quilts were hung on the livestock barn. It seemed like the perfect way to top off a new functional fair feature. Our 4-H clubs really took their time to design those beautiful barn quilts as they are just as gorgeous today as they were the first year. When the barn quilts are hung, I know the fair is just a couple days away.

I’ll never forget all the planning and hours by so many that went into renovating our 4-H food stand or creating and constructing our art wall in the youth building. Valuing and showcasing our young people in this way is one of the reasons the fair is a culminating event for us.

A happy memory is the year that Pepin County 4-H members officially joined the fair. Change can be difficult, but this was one that will be marked in our memories and our history books in a positive way for generations to come.

While some may choose to forget, I remember the pink party of 2020 fondly because it gave me the opportunity to see our 4-H members exhibit their 4-H projects in their own homes and from their own perspective – something that rarely happens without a pandemic.

This year our 4-H clubs worked to paint and epoxy 4-H food stand tables. They all turned out so unique and powerful. I can’t wait for everyone at the fair to see them! I know this will be a memory of the 2022 fair that will be burned into my brain for many years to come.

Then there are always the memories that melt into one. Year after year, they are the memories that repeat annually with different faces and novel stories to tell, but always illuminate the same sentiment. When I think about these memories, they run through my head like a vintage filmstrip, bringing me to smile and tear all in the same. These memories are of 4-H Cloverbuds smiling with their giant rosettes, the excitement as market animals step off the trailer and onto the scale, young people getting wet and messy at our youth-led Ag Olympics, and grandparents that are eager to hear about their grandchild’s 4‑H projects and the pink ribbon they earned on their very favorite exhibit.

In reflection, it seems to me that fair memories are made from our most important traditions and from our greatest innovations. No matter the memory at the Buffalo County Fair, they illustrate for me youth development at work.

The truth is that the fair has always a place for memories; it always will be. I hope this year’s fair is no different – “meet” up with old friends and get to know new ones, while being engaged at a youth-centered event where “memories are made.”



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