The Fairest of All
It slides into Callaway County every year. The sights, the sounds, the food . . . .
"The fair started back in 1977," Callaway County Chairman Rob Bristow said. "They had their first building out here, several volunteers. And, it's just sort of snowballed since."
When the Callaway County Fair started in the late 1970s, it wasn't about winning stuffed animals at games, but about showing the best real animal. It was primarily youth in the beginning. 4-H, FFA, and open classes. It started with hogs, cattle and sheep.
Klarissa Minish and her sheep competed in this year's youth livestock contests - those still play a large part in today's fair.
"She won supreme champion ewe," livestock competition participant Klarissa Minish said. "She did a good job."
Minish has been showing sheep for four years, and has learned in that time how to win.
"You have to be a team with the sheep," Minish said. "You have to relax with the sheep. And you have to enjoy with the sheep."
It's a winning combination that has been fed down through the years.
"My grandpa started showing sheep whenever he was boy," Minish said. "So, he wanted to get me into it."
"Generation to generation," Klarissa's grandfather Kevin Minish said. "We went up to sale this year in Des Moines, and that's the fifth generation that's been up there at that state fair."
And, generations of Callawegians have been coming to the fairgrounds since the fair started 30 years ago.
"So, it's really grown throughout the years, because societies changed," Bristow said. "And, kids are doing different things, and people are interested in more than just the livestock side of life."
That growth has spun off into a lot more work.
"To put on a fair as large as this, basically, it's a year-round activity," Bristow said. "As soon as the fair is over this year. We'll start looking at booking entertainment - a variety of acts for next year."
And the key to choosing who will swing into town for the fair . . .
"Since the fair was originally built around youth, that's what we try to focus on," Bristow said. "I mean, we're really youth driven out here. What's really neat is that you're looking at the future leaders in our community."
For Kevin, watching the future of his family gives him a great sense of pride.
"We done pretty good there today - several blue ribbons through there today," he said. "So, we're pretty proud of what's happened today."
Enjoying watching things grow and change is something Klarissa and her grandfather have in common. Just as he's watched her over the years, now it's her turn.
"Watching them grow up," she said of her sheep. "From newborn, to as old as they get."
And, as its gotten older - today with tractor pulls, art stands, and rides - the fair still remembers from where it came.
The fair runs through Saturday.