Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back in the Barn

Debbie Kayga (left) with Amanda Hotchkiss in a booth overlooking the youths.

Monsoon-like storms had me crawling along Andersonville Road trying to get to the fair. I had left work late, and was afraid I wouldn’t make it in time. I didn’t have to worry.

When I arrived at the fairgrounds, festivalgoers were waiting in the activity building until they got the “all clear” over the radio. Waiting gave me the opportunity to chat with a handful of mothers who volunteer by navigating parking. They were actually working for compensation for their kids who play in the Holly band. Nearly 160 parents take time out of their lives to help out both the fair, and their kids.

Teri Mills of Davisburg has a 16 year old and 12 year old in band. Both of her kids were helping out too.

“I absolutely love to come out and do this,” she said.

After waiting for close to an hour, I knew it was a bad sign when a line of beat up cars started making it’s way toward us. The demolition derby had been canceled. Not to worry, after the rain cleared, I was escorted up to the offices to meet with director Jackie Scramlin. No derby, but still work to do. I was back to the barns.

After dubiously scanning my peep-toe, raspberry shoes, Debbie Kayga led me into an office overlooking an arena.

“Sorry, I really wasn’t expecting to be in a barn,” I said, feeling incredibly uncomfortable.

Debbie didn’t really seem to care; she was drenched and needed to dry off. While she got ready she had me number different colored squares of paper on which judges would score the kids for the Showmanship Sweepstakes. This is what the fair is really about for a lot of people. Kids show off what they know about animals, and have to present them in a formal way and answer questions. After chatting with one mother, I become immediately impressed that her children are up in the early a.m. in order to take care of their animals. I may come off like your grandmother, but it’s nice to see youths being productive.

Nearly everyone at the fair is a volunteer. Amanda Hotchkiss was clerking, which essentially means she makes announcements and keeps the schedule on time. She also has to quickly tally up points. She brought a calmness over the whole event, which had become chaotic with the time change due to the rainstorm.

“I just feel that 4-H was such a big part of my life,” she said, adding that it teaches leadership skills and responsibility. “It’s wonderful for the community.”

Debbie definitely appreciated Amanda’s help, “Amanda is the best! I couldn’t do it without her.”

I wouldn’t say I was totally helpful, except for about ten minutes where I had to call kids names off and give them their numbers. I hung out for a while, watching the kids, but it was getting late, and I had to eat a lot of food off of sticks in order to really appreciate the fair experience. I did get to ride on the Ferris Wheel with Rob, and I fully appreciate how many people it takes to make the Oakland County Fair possible.

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