Changes ahead for Van Buren County Fair

By | September 7, 2018 6:54 am

By Hansel Moore

For a lot of people, summer is the time to anticipate the fun and joy of the county fair.

For generations, Ferris wheels, food, and contests of all types have made memories for families and friends.

It is an opportunity for those with special talents to display their crafts in search of the first-place blue ribbon. Rides roar as they work to produce shrieks from those brave enough for the adventure. A midway is lined with games of challenge and skill where one can win a prize for their sweetheart. A plethora of food choices tease the taste buds as the sounds and aroma of delights fill the experience. These were the topics describing the wonders of a fair in poems written by Van Buren elementary students displayed in the basement of the fair barn. They were all very talented works but must have been reflective of memories of years gone by or from visiting other fairs.

Many Van Buren County residents have fond recollections of when the Van Buren County Fair was “a big deal.”   The fair covered a large area with rides and a midway. The Fairest of the Fair contest was well represented, and there were persons lining up to enter the fruits of their labor in canning, quilting, and photography categories. It was a place where family and friends gathered and spent hours enjoying each other’s company. Deep fried treats and cotton candy were enjoyed, as scheduled events in the arena were well attended.

This year, an abbreviated, three-day fair was offered at the fairgrounds. Inside the agriculture building, the white display tiers were sparsely covered, as a few dedicated fair enthusiasts entered items seeking bragging rights and a blue ribbon. A tradition of elementary school artwork was displayed in the lower level of the agriculture building. Unfortunately, anyone who wanted to view them had to navigate inches of settling water that had seeped in through the crumbling wall of the aging building. The 4-H members did a great job of bringing their items but had to display them in water-damaged cases located in a poorly lit room with peeling paint and a damaged ceiling.

For two years, attendance at the fair has hit a lethargic level. Instead of being a center point for the community, it appears to have become an obligation on the calendar.

An event like a county fair requires many hours of planning and takes months of preparation. A successful fair takes an army of volunteers and support from local organizations to become a memorable event and not just meeting the minimum standards of the state fair board.

Plans have been made to demolish the obsolete fair building and designs have been approved to construct a new agriculture structure to be utilized for the fair. It may be good symbolism for the scenario of the state of the fair – something has to change.

County Mayor Greg Wilson has appointed new members to the fair board, with anticipation of returning the fair to former glory days. One of the new members to the board, Lesa Bouldin, explained, “I want to have the best fair that we can for the kids of Van Buren. I want it to be something to remember.”

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