It’s hard to believe summer is almost over. After watching my daughter play fastpitch softball for more than two months, it feels like my summer is just beginning, and unfortunately between family vacations and reunions, it doesn’t look like we will be able to take in a county fair or even the state fair this year.
I will admit I’m a little sad I won’t be able to try some of the amazing pork menu items promised this year, that I won’t be able to take the kids on rides and walk through the barns, and that I won’t get the chance to hit up a concert or two, but I have been living vicariously through your social media posts from your local fairs.
And I have to say I think the fair season brings out the best of us.
For example, at the 2019 Medina County Fair in Ohio, Austin Lettner, 14, decided not to keep the proceeds from auctioning off his 230-pound hog named Millhouse. Instead he decided to donate his earnings to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He had hoped to raise $1,000.
However, when the auction started, the bidding went crazy, and the auctioneer opened it up for anyone who wanted to donate an additional dollar a pound to go directly to the charity. When it was all said and done, Lettner’s Millhouse had raised more than $11,000.
During the Sac County Fair in Iowa, Justin Rupnow decided to give $200 of his auction earnings back to the fair. Soon other fellow club members followed suit and when the auction was over, more than $20,000 had been raised for a new show ring and barn.
At the Door County Fair in Wisconsin, 9-year-old Braelyn Staats donated the proceeds from the sale of her pig Star to Adopt-A-Soldier, an organization that takes care of the troops in Door and Kewaunee counties by sending care packages and anything they may request or need. This was Staats’ first year showing pigs at the fair. Her father Jason is currently serving in Afghanistan with the Wisconsin National Guard and frequently receives care packages from the organization.
Grant Goodell, 18, decided to take his earnings from the Eau Claire County Fair in Wisconsin and give them to a classmate who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Auctioneers, organizations and businesses soon stepped up to help. Goodell ended up selling his pig for $32 per pound, almost six times the average price, and raising more than $8,000 for his friend, Tenley Walker.
Last week the Iowa State Fair hosted its first-ever Bacon Buddies event, a new program that pairs people with special needs with FFA members to show pigs. The special needs participants had the opportunity to not only interact with livestock, but to show pigs in the main ring. The event was all made possible due to the persistence of Earlham, Iowa, senior Kylee Brown who worked with Special Olympics Iowa to find buddies, put together a team of handlers and pigs, garnered the Iowa State Fair’s approval and worked with National Pork Board for resources and support.
Brown told the Des Moines Register the real mission is to create bonds that last way past the fair.
“No matter where you came from, we’re all the same,” Brown says. “So, we all need to be able to reach out and give each other opportunities and not just keep it to ourselves.”
These are just a handful of inspirational stories that came from this year’s fair season. I know there are many more. We could say fair season brings out the best of us, but really as our next generation of pork producers practice We Care principles daily, that generosity, thoughtfulness and compassion is there all year long.