This past Monday, I was sitting in my Washington D.C. apartment when I received a phone call from my mother; she wanted to FaceTime. I didn’t even know she knew how to that. I sat down my book, “The Fred Factor” and picked up her call. As I peered into the screen of my iPhone4, I was greeted by several familiar faces saying (some of them actually screaming) “HEY!” This crowd was filled with friends of all ages – some my parents’ age, some my age, and some that haven’t even hit double digits. The sight of this group and their location resurfaced many nostalgic feelings.
They were at my county fair!
Although my days showing at the fair ended three years ago, my parents always take time out of their week to reconnect with friends and be a part of the excitement and fun associated with showing livestock. The people I began chatting with over the phone are those I met and became close to when I was an exhibitor. During the conversation, I began to reflect on my fair memories. I am ever so grateful that I had the opportunity to raise livestock for the fair. It provided me with so much laughter, new friends and a chance to grow in many different ways. Four reasons that immediately stuck out in my mind include:
Raising livestock is no easy task. Regardless of the animal, it must receive daily attention to ensure it has food, water and a comfortable living environment. I can remember spending hours cleaning out my hogs’ pen because I wanted to make sure they were kept clean throughout the entire production process. In addition to its welfare, I needed to be around my hogs to get them comfortable with humans and foreign noises. Transporting animals to the fair might seem hectic, but if you have given your animals the proper attention prior to this relocation, they are much more calm and relaxed throughout the process.
As you can see, one project can consume a lot of time. Some of this attention cares for the hogs basic needs, i.e. food and water for growth, but the additional care teaches me the value of hard work. If I go the extra mile with a project, it is mutually beneficial.
I have always been a competitive person…just ask my sisters. Consequently, raising animals for show further prompted my drive to create healthy and happy animals.
- Brush? Check.
- Water bottle? Check
- Show stick? Check.
- Competitor’s number? Check.
Before any show, I would mentally go through this check list to ensure I had all the necessary items. I needed a brush to keep my hog clean; a water bottle to keep it cool; a show stick to guide it; and my competitor’s number to check-in. I enjoyed being in a ring with fellow friends and classmates to showcase the end product of our hard work. Because this was a competition, it subsequently taught me sportsmanship. Although I never made it to the championship drive (when the judge announced a winner), those who were not selected always went up to the champion to shake his or her hand. Were they disappointed? Probably. But they were able to put aside that emotion to congratulate a fellow exhibitor on a job well done.
Working as a Family
I am the youngest of three, and with two ambitious sisters, there are few times that our entire family is able to get together. In addition to the holidays, fair time was one of those weeks I could guarantee a team of five. (Some might even consider their fair a holiday!) Every summer, we would camp at the fair; it provided convenience and a time to bond. I can remember getting up early to feed and water our hogs. Some mornings, we would get up extra early to wash them. Fair projects always brought my family together, and for that, I am beyond thankful. Being crammed in a small camper for seven days might have created some conflict at times (especially during our elder years!), but I was always sad to see fair week come to an end.
Fair friends. Have you ever used this term? By being involved at the fair, I was able to interact with so many smart, funny and driven individuals. Through my interactions, I quickly learned the caliber of young adults that make up livestock exhibitors. Not only were they successful, but they built me up to reach new heights, too. Consequently, they soon lost the title “fair friends” and became close friends. (But we won’t forget what started it all…the fair!) One of my friends actually gets married in a few weeks, and despite our separation the past few years because of college and careers, I, along with many others, were still invited to be a part of her special day. I have found that very few organizations or circles have this type of longevity and loyalty.
In addition to the friendships I created, my parents were also able to build relationships. As I previously mentioned, they are taking time off this week to reconnect with old friends and help their kids with their projects. This past Monday when my mom FaceTimed me, I was actually wearing a fair shirt that our friends made last year. The shirt reads (and something I will never forget!)… “I Like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie…”!