Missing the Fair

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I am writing this with an abundance of mixed feelings. On Tuesday, August 11, 2020,  the fair board called a special meeting to decide if there would be a Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair this year. After going back and forth for months (and I do mean months) the board decided it would be best not to open the fair this year.

On one hand, I praise the board members for thinking about the health and well-being of the more than 70,000 people that attend our 9-day fair. Not to mention the health and well-being of the hundreds of folks who work with the carnival and volunteer with the fair board. That was a hard and brave decision to make for our community.

On the other hand, I am sad. Sad we will not have an event that in recent years has helped bring our community together after hurricanes. Sad for our vendors, entertainment, and carnival operators who are desperately in need of the business. Sad for our crafters, bakers, and antique collectors who work all year to make things that deserve to be judged for a blue ribbon. Most of all, I am sad for our farmers and our children. The fair celebrates what makes Robeson County great, the economic backbone of the community, and that is agriculture. It gives us a chance to educate youth on raising animals, baking, and crafting, where agriculture is the common thread. I am sad because we will all miss the laughter, the lights, the food, and the family fun.

Did you know that agricultural fairs conservatively generate almost 24 million dollars a year in North Carolina? That’s according to Kevin Hardison with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who is tasked with estimating those numbers. So what? How does that affect you? Well, think about the Robeson County Fair. Maybe your favorite thing to do is get a collard sandwich or ribs from one of the churches that are fundraising by selling food at the fair. Think about nonprofits like the Robeson County Domestic Violence Center and United Way that have fundraising events at the fair. Think about these organizations that raise money at the fair to take care of our community members. Would you willingly take the money you spend at the fair ($8 admission + $25 ride band + $20 to eat = $53 roughly, per person) and donate it to one of these groups in hopes they can continue to help the community?

Not having a fair is devastating in many ways to our community. However, having a fair and creating an event where people might get sick, spread the virus elsewhere, and lose their lives…folks, that’s a no brainer. We want you alive to come back and be part of the fair in 2021. We want you to be healthy, and this year that means no fair. Hold on tight though,  because I have a feeling the fair in 2021 is going to be bigger, brighter, better, and safer than ever before…after all, we have a little more time to make that happen, and do it right. We will miss you at the fair this year, but we can’t wait to see you back in 2021.

For more information, contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.