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Fair lessons

July 16, 2009

Sedgwick County FairI am bona fide crazy about the county fair. I love every bit of Americana, every bit of redneck — from the junk food to the junk vendors. I love the crowds, the noises, the smells, the late nights and early mornings. I love the carnies hawking games, church women pedaling chicken-and-noodles, and politicians handing out free T-shirts. And, nothing tops the 4-H projects. Every year, I am stunned by the talent of 4-Hers. They’re growing vegetables, raising animals, sewing clothes, building lamps and rockets, showing off great photos and art, and on and on. I was so proud of D. and E. and their projects.

Here are just some of the lessons I learned from the kids:

It’s all about knowing your audience. A recipe your family loves may not pass muster with the judges. Families are about gooey goodness. Food judges…not so much. And, that’s just fine with  E. — and us.

You really do need to get up and brush yourself off from time to time. D. and his lamb took a dive into the show ring dirt. They both landed upright, like buoys, and kept on walking — straight to a blue ribbon.

The thrill of carnival rides can make anyone feel young.

Camaraderie between old and new friends beats winning every time.

The most important lesson, however, has nothing to do with fun or childlike abandon. Instead, it’s a much more serious topic — the preciousness of life. Evan, a 13-year-old from our club, spent Thursday at the fair, hauled in a handful of purple ribbons, rode rides with his friends, and then died at home that evening.  No warning.

My heart breaks at the thought of the tough times ahead for his family. He was a gift to us all. There’s a small comfort in knowing that Evan’s last day was perhaps one of his best.

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