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Column: Bartholomew County 4-H Fair coverage diligent

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It’s Bartholomew County’s biggest single event of the year, with so much coverage that I can’t even think of something else that comes remotely close to rivaling it.

And as of today, it’s officially over. It’s just a matter of entrants picking up exhibits and hauling them back home.

It — if you haven’t yet guessed — is the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair.

The final event of the 56th annual fair was last night’s Demolition Derby in the Grandstand. The second-to-last event was a yoga demonstration to help people deal with life’s stressors. I wonder if the timing of that was intentional. If so, good job, fair planners.

I have been to a lot of fairs, but this was my first go-round in Bartholomew County. I had an opportunity to chat with dozens of fairgoers last night while working The Republic’s booth. If I missed you this year, perhaps we will connect next year.

What no one could have missed was our coverage commitment to this year’s fair. It has been dominating The Republic for eight straight days, with seven front-page fair stories during that time, including coverage today of Saturday’s livestock auction.

Fair coverage began last Sunday, with a listing of more than 500 winners. Abigail Moses, who was the grand champion in cake decorating, was the first to get her name in the paper. Other winners in categories such as collections, creative writing, dog obedience, welding and performing arts were all listed that first day. The fair is about agriculture, that’s for sure. But it’s not only about agriculture, and last Sunday’s list of winners was a good reminder of that.

Our photographers have been practically living at the fairgrounds this past week. For all I know, they may have pitched a tent. We have published fair photo pages every day. They took hundreds of pictures and published more than 50 of the best ones in the newspaper — and more online.

And even though the fair has ended, we are just getting started in publishing names of all of the winners. Every last one will be printed, for as long as it takes to fit them all in.

Most people think of the fair as being just for the kids, with 4-H eligibility running from third through 12th grade. But open-class competition in the family arts division welcomes all residents of Bartholomew County — no matter how old — to participate in 52 divisions, including antiques, flowers, photography and jewelry. And just for fun, there was the ugly lamp competition. Next year I may have to enter that one myself.

For exhibitors, the next opportunity to compete is at the Indiana State Fair, Aug. 2-18. I have been to that one many times, pushing little kids — ones related to me, just in case anyone is wondering — in strollers or pulling them in wagons through dusty or muddy parking lots — depending on the weather — to enjoy an afternoon at the fair. Most years it’s dusty and hot. Visiting the animals in the barns is good fun, especially if you have kids. Besides housing mostly friendly creatures, the barns also have gigantic fans, which also help humans beat the heat.

I have been a fair reporter in my time — referring to my coverage assignment, not my knowledge or skills in that area.

As a first-year novice farm editor in agriculture-rich Wisconsin, I once edited a list of fair winners, changing “barrow,” a young castrated male hog, to “burro,” a young donkey.

Guess who felt like a donkey after that?

Appropriately, I had extreme guilt — not to be confused with “gilt,” a young female pig.

They say confessions are good for the soul. I say they’re good for a laugh, especially from personal experience at fair time.

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at

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