By Zane Davis
The barns are now empty and the noises of laughing exhibitors, livestock and auctioneers has gone silent, but the memories made this past week in Cambridge, Idaho will last a lifetime.
The Washington County Fair is a typical rural Idaho county fair with 4-H and FFA livestock exhibits, a rodeo, handmade goods, artwork, photography, canned goods and vegetables and crops, but what is not typical are the people that make up the Washington County Fair. The people are amazing and astounding and astonishing and unbelievable! There simply aren’t enough adjectives to describe the people of Washington County.
The Washington County Fair Board consists of a group of individuals from throughout the county that volunteer their time to make the fair happen every year. In addition to their normal duties as board members, these fine individuals have had the daunting task of rebuilding and renovating the Washington County Fairgrounds over the past 12 years, due to 2 catastrophic building collapses due to snow. One time would be stressful, but they have had to do it twice, and as a result have made the Washington County Fairgrounds one of the nicest fairgrounds in the state of Idaho. Thank you!
Then, there are the 4-H leaders and FFA Advisors. With six 4-H clubs and three FFA Chapters, over 150 Washington County youth participated in the Washington County Fair and they were all educated, directed and assisted by an army of dedicated people that volunteer their time to help the youth of our county.
Next, we have the kids. The bright-eyed, hard- working, fun-loving kids of Washington County. Kids that could have spent their summers laying on the couch, watching TV or goofing off, but instead chose to spend their time raising, training and caring for an animal (or several animals) all while participating in sports and working.
Moving on, we have the vital group of people known as the family members. You know, the parents and the grandparents, the siblings still too young to participate and the siblings that have graduated and no longer participate. All of the people that help train the animals at home and get drug or bit or kicked or stepped on. The people that make special trips to town because no one said that they were out of feed. The people that check the water on the livestock while the owner is rushing to change clothes to get to a baseball tournament. The people that burn hundreds of gallons of fuel traveling to meetings and practices and conferences. The people that make sure the exhibitor and their animal looks tip-top before they enter the ring and try to instill a million things to remember while in showmanship in the brief span of a few moments before they enter the ring. However, my favorite are the people sitting in the bleachers leaning and shifting and with strange grimaced looks on their faces and gritted teeth, hoping that their motion and thoughts are transmitting to the exhibitor telepathically to “fix that leg”, “watch the judge”, or “wipe him off”.
Lastly, and most definitely not least, we come to the community. The former exhibitors, family friends, community members and businesses that come out to watch the kids show their animals and then reward them for their hard work with a handsome price for their animal; much of which goes to school clothes and school activities, college funds and a bit held back to procure and feed next year’s animals.
I would like to take a moment and share a few of the memories that I observed during my week at the Washington County Fair. I witnessed an exhibitor in her 10th year of 4-H share her knowledge with her brother in his first year of 4-H and did such a good job that she has set him on the path to many blue ribbons and potential championships in the future. I witnessed a young man with a scared steer sit quietly and patiently for over an hour until his animal had calmed down enough to proceed to the scale safely. I saw a young lady that had never shown a pig before, enter the show ring trying to remember everything that everyone had told her and everything that she had watched on YouTube, and show like a seasoned veteran of the show ring; taking home the Grand Champion honors. I witnessed another swine exhibitor show her pigs with an arm sling and multiple abrasions following an ATV accident, and take what had to be painful all in stride and with grace, poise and gratitude that the accident wasn’t worse. I watched a 2nd year sheep showman take home the coveted Grand Champion honors, but I also witnessed a young man in his first year of showing a sheep, that easily outweighed him by 70 pounds, right in the fight for Champion. I saw a young man in an electric wheelchair show a sheep with such skill and finesse, that you almost forgot that the chair was there. I saw best friends go head to head in FFA Beef Showmanship and when the results were announced, both young men shared smiles and a handshake making determining the actual winner a difficult task. I also saw a young man come in 3rd place in the beef market class behind his younger brother and his girlfriend. However, the smile on his face was as big as if he had won himself. I watched community members and business owners pore over their sale sheets and confer with others to insure that every person and animal that went through the sale ring on Saturday received a suitable price for their efforts. I watched five bleachers in the sale barn fill to capacity during the livestock sale. I observed the grandchildren of a long-time resident and former sheep exhibitor spend $27 per pound on the Grand Champion Market Lamb all in honor of their grandfather. I also watched the legacy of a dear friend live on through an award that is as beautiful and meaningful as she was. Finally, I witnessed three communities come together to help provide the youth of Washington County with a meaningful life experience and help develop successful and responsible members of society.
With all of the horrible things on the news and the violence around the world, it is comforting to know that there are still places where values, compassion, discipline and responsibility are still tenets of society and one of those places is Washington County, Idaho. Well done Washington County…well done!