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Column: County fair brings back fond memories of past summers


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The Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair starts this week. It sure will be different from last year’s, at least from where I’ll be sitting.

That would be at the Master Gardeners’ table in one of the exhibition buildings on the grounds. It will be different because, as anyone from the county who wasn’t vacationing in the Arctic last summer can tell you, July 2012 was hot. No, I mean really hot. How hot was it? At the risk of sounding like a late-night talk show host, it was so hot the 4-H kids were feeding ice water to the chickens so they wouldn’t lay hard-boiled eggs (rimshot).

Our Master Gardener table was in a direct path of huge fans which helped make the air inside the building somewhat tolerable. Of course, after enduring the string of 90 and 100 degree days we had suffered up to that time, I almost had become used to the intense temperatures. Almost.

I’m not an official Master Gardener yet, but the hours I spend at the fair will go towards my certification after which time I will be authorized to wear a snazzy metal Master Gardener badge elegantly imprinted with my name instead of the plastic-encased, typed paper badge I will be sporting during the duration of the festivities. So if you ask me a question about those spots on your tomatoes, be advised that I am only an intern.

This will be only my second year of working at the fair although I have been attending as a visitor since I was a young child. Some of my friends at school were in 4-H, and I would see them caring for their sheep or cows or pumpkin squash and think that was a pretty cool thing. I saw where they had cots so they could spend nights in the barns with their animals and I was envious of such an out-

of-the ordinary adventure. I don’t recall if the kids who raised pumpkin squash had overnight cots or not.

When I was old enough in my parents’ eyes, the fair was one of the places I was allowed to visit without supervision. That freedom meant so much to an upper elementary/junior high boy who might run into his girlfriend of the moment and possibly ride the Ferris wheel with her. It was unlikely, sure, but hope is a powerful motivator in the young.

After I discovered guitars and music, the Johnson County fair meant my band could participate in the Battle of the Bands. Other than my garage where the kids in the neighborhood would gather to listen to us practice, the fair was one of the few places that offered us a real audience. Our band never won the “battle,” but I did make contact with several of the county musicians who were there. I wound up playing in musical groups with one or two of them later in my adult life, and we continue to keep in contact.

The first summer I was of voting age, I was strolling by a tent where a man was trying to register voters for the Republican Party. I said I was not registered, and he offered to sign me up. That was during my long-haired, leftist hippie radical period, and I let him know I planned to vote for George McGovern. I didn’t think anything more about it until I showed up to vote in November and was denied a ballot because I wasn’t registered. I guess I shouldn’t have spoken up, but keeping my opinions to myself was hard for me back in those days.

Those are a few of my county fair memories. I have more, and if you are interested, stop by the Master Gardeners’ table this week. Oh, and about those tomatoes of yours: I’d have to check, but it might be blossom-end rot.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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