Shawnee News Star garden article 12 Sep 2018 Linda Workman Smith,  Multi-County Master Gardener Association The Pottawatomie County Free Fair has concluded for another year. With all the available activities, there is something for everyone: 4-H Exhibits, 4-H Cloverbud Kiddie Corner, 4-H Horse Show, FFA Exhibits, 4-H and FFA Plant Science, 4-H and FFA Livestock, Wheatheart […]

Shawnee News Star garden article 12 Sep 2018

Free Fair 2018

Linda Workman Smith,  Multi-County Master Gardener Association

The Pottawatomie County Free Fair has concluded for another year. With all the available activities, there is something for everyone:

4-H Exhibits, 4-H Cloverbud Kiddie Corner, 4-H Horse Show, FFA Exhibits, 4-H and FFA Plant Science, 4-H and FFA Livestock, Wheatheart Bread Contest, Open Arts and Crafts, Open Jr. Arts and Crafts, Open Food Preparation, Open Jr. Food Preparation, Open Food Preservation, Open Jr. Food Preservation, Open Photography, Open Textiles, Open Poultry, Open Plant Science

And then there is: 4-H ATV Safety Trailer, 4-H & FFA Horse Show, Commercial Booths, Antique Tractor Display & Demonstrations, Fetch and Fish Tub Demonstration, Oklahoma Jr High and High School Rodeo, Garden Tractor Pulling Contest, Fire Fighters Olympicsjust to name a few.

Countless volunteer hours go into making this event happen every year. I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all those who give so freely of their time and energy. Mark your calendar for next year, and be thinking about how you can participate in this community event.

Some background on the history of fairs according to the Oklahoma Historical Society: Rural and small-town Oklahomans of the 1800s and 1900s viewed county and state fairs as an annual social ritual; the agricultural fair typically offered vocational education for adults and youth. A European tradition established in the middle ages, fairs originally served either a religious or a commercial purpose. Dating to 1810, American fairs were first organized by agricultural societies whose members discussed crops, livestock and land use. The annual event awarded prizes for the best (not the biggest) specimens of crops and animals. The main purpose was to educate farmers. In the 1840s manufactures began using fairs to exhibit new plows, planters and reapers but that also promoted efficient cultivation and better crops. The first state fair was held in September 1841 in New York; other states soon followed.

In an agricultural nation, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, fairs proved popular. They drew isolated farm families to towns, county seats and state capitals to socialize with friends, learn about improved seed varieties and livestock breeds and marvel at new equipment.

Until 1915 the operation of county fairs in Oklahoma had been impeded by the profit motive. Most fair associations collected entry fees from competitors and gate admission from fairgoers. Therefore, in poorer, less populated counties, farm families could not afford to participate, and those areas were underrepresented in the state fairs. In spring 1915 Rep. Paul Nesbitt of McAlester presented a bill to allow county commissions to operate 'free fairs' and use tax money to pay the event's expenses. Approved in June, the Oklahoma Free Fair Law directed each county agent to hold a meeting, select two fair directors, and ask the commission to collect twenty-five cents on each thousand dollars of assessed property value. Each county could draw one hundred dollars of state money to send its winning exhibits to a state fair. Immediately, twenty-two counties announced fair dates for autumn 1915, and two years later forty-nine counties followed suit.

On a personal note: I participated in the youth horticulture identification contest by providing some plant samples and taking pictures of the event, assisted my cohort, Becky Carlberg in the construction of a scarecrow to represent the Multi-County Master Gardener Association (won second place), made small succulent gardens to sell at the MCMGA booth, and came away with several ribbons for home-grown produce all while dealing with a urinary tract infection; thank you Dear Doctor for the prescription of relief.

We hope to see you all next year, and as always, happy gardening.