Fair Time Memories
While the calendar doesn’t seem to indicate anything out
of the ordinary, anyone who has grown up in this area
knows very well that when the Clay County Fair rolls
around, lots of things begin to happen.
Growing up, when the Clay County Fair rolled around, it
always meant two things – first, a day off from school so
that kids could go to the fair and enjoy it for a day. Secondly,
and only when I got into high school, it meant that
you got to miss another day of school to be at the fair as
you manned the Graettinger FFA’s Kiddie Barnyard.
Back in the day, a tent would be erected just to the northwest
of the beef barns on the fairgrounds, and Graettinger-
‘s FFA chapter would build pens in the tent and bring over
a sow with litter of pigs, a cow and calf, perhaps a mare
and foal, ducks, chickens, and even baby chicks from the
HyLine hatchery. And of course, if any member had a dog
or cat that had a little of puppies or kittens, they would find
their way over to the fair to be given away, and they were
most often the most popular attraction of the fair!
Anyhow, five or six FFA members would spend a day
and stay overnight in the tent, looking after the animals,
talking about FFA and experiencing life at the fair. Our advisor
would take us to the fair when school got out at 3:30
and we would replace the group that had gone the day before.
We would sleep in our sleeping bags, or attempt to sleep,
as ducks, chickens and the noises of the fairgrounds would
tend to keep you awake most of the night anyway. Add in
the occasional checks of the tent by the fair security officers,
and beauty sleep was not high on the priority list.
As a senior, I was lucky enough to spend two nights and
days at the fair in our tent. Along with a couple of buddies,
we left the two underclassmen at the tent with strict instructions
to “STAY HERE” and we went exploring as the
evening grandstand show ended.
At that time, one of our instructors back at Graettinger
had a brother who owned two nickel-pitch games on the
midway a the fair. He had told us to look his brother up,
and perhaps we could pick up some extra cash helping him
out. Being the industrious sort, we did just that, and two
nights later when the fair came to a close, I went back and
ended up tearing down and packing up both games, working
six hours and earning $60 for my efforts, and wouldn’t
you know it, I got paid in dimes.
But, it was something one would never think of and it
was a new experience that taught me two things.
First, an awful lot of work in this country gets done after
the gates close and the majority of the people go home and
secondly, $60 worth of dimes is a little awkward to carry
when you walk a half-mile to where you park your car.
So as the Clay County Fair opened this weekend, I hope
I’ll be able to slip over and walk around the grounds. A lot
has changed in the 30-plus years since I prowled around,
but it still represents the best of rural life and is a great
place to meet up with old friends…and to reconnect with
Tom Thumb Mini Donuts!