Cyndi's Two Cents

Mud pies

Commentary.

County fair and festival season is well underway across the Midwest.  After the 2020 summer of COVID- restriction-closings, most county and state fairs are back in business this year.  In many areas, communities came together to find a way to hold junior livestock shows last summer and fall despite the cancellation of fairs and festivals. 

One complication several fairs in my area had to address this year is lack of a carnival.  Although dates were set and contracts signed, at least 2 of the smaller carnival companies were unable to get workers so had to cancel.  In one such instance, the carnival company owner said she could not get her workers across the border.  Because she was unable to bring her workers into this country, she had to cancel all contracts with fairs and festivals. Because of COVID restrictions last year, fairs were cancelled so carnivals lost business.  In tears, the carnival company owner told the contact at a neighboring county fair that because of these cancellations, she will lose the business her parents started and left for her to run.  Even if there are local volunteers willing to help, carnival workers need specific training to ensure they have the skills and competencies necessary to set up and operate the rides and other equipment as well as run games.

Many carnivals and amusement companies find it difficult to recruit works who are willing to travel for 6 to 10 months at a time. The industry relies on a mix of workers from the United States and foreign countries. They frequently work through the H-2B visa program, a nonimmigrant program that permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load need or intermittent need.
Despite no carnival rides and games, and episodes of pouring rain and flash flooding that caused the cattle show and 5K walk/run to be rescheduled, the fair went on. The community came out in full force to enjoy lemon shake-ups and burgers from the food stand.  There was great participation in the tractor pull, horse show and 4-wheel rodeo and the stands were full each night. During the deluge, fairgoers crowded under the open sided building, sitting at picnic tables, in lawn chairs, and on the concrete floor to play Bingo. Some of the kids played in the rain. They put out the word for parents to bring their kids in old clothes and shoes the next day and set up a course for “Mud Olympics” on the track.

If you drive through the town of 282 people, you pass the fairgrounds. One hundred and seven years ago, this fair was organized to promote and encourage better livestock, grains, and seeds and to promote friendly exhibits and provide a common meeting ground.  More than a century later and they are still doing just that.

When life gives you mud, you make mud pies.  At least that is what the organizers of this little fair did.

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