Here & There at the Vigo County Fair

Summer would not be summer without a visit to the Vigo County Fair. You have to start out looking at the 4-H projects, and if you were in 4-H as a kid, you do a half-empty/half-full routine, first noticing there are way fewer projects than when you were little, and then thinking it’s amazing young people still do this old stuff at all.

Projects may be different now, but it’s still great to see the items made by hand, showing kids using their heads and putting their heart into creating, which has to better for their health than staring at a video screen large or small.

We looked at items in the category of recycling or repurposing. Make a shirt into a torso pillow!

Take old pipes and create a dog figure! You’ve turned something you no longer need into something you don’t need at all. This is better for the environment than the standard American way of buying something new you don’t need. It also replaces mindless consumption with incipient creativity. All to the good for the 4-Her and her community.

My natural instinct is to ridicule the trendiness of cupcakes, but if I were in 4-H now, I would definitely do the cupcake decorating. Not being edible, these all could be classified as sculpture, right?

Of course, 4-H is rooted in the farming community, so you have to look at what’s been grown. Much of the produce displayed was somewhat under-ripe, seeming to confirm my feeling that the fair was scheduled early this year. But, glass half full again, this allowed a lovely complementary color scheme with the purple grand champion ribbon draped over green tinged potatoes. Think what Claes Oldenberg could do with those spuds. In fact, I propose we have a contest that results in turning a couple of “audience favorite” 4-H projects into a full-scale sculpture for Art Spaces. Anyone with me?

At the fair, you are supposed to get free stuff, and there’s also less of that than there used to be. There were some potentially useful educational handouts. No rulers and back scratchers, flyswatters and fans. Okay, okay, nobody needs that stuff… how hard it is to escape the mindless consumption of freebies.

My mother always said I could buy food only at the 4-H concession stand because they washed their hands there. And I was so dorky and obedient that I follow that rule still. French fries with the works and the addition of all the condiments offered were a bargain. A week later and we haven’t died from food poisoning.

At the fair, we talked, not to the animals, but to those who had raised them. It went like this:

“Are they hot?” “They’re rabbits.”

“Do they like having a bath every day?” “They’re cows.”

“Do they feel nervous at night in a strange place?” “They’re sheep.”

Well, you can’t argue with that.

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