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Come On Out to the Fair!

            You have only three more days, well four, counting today, to take in the very best county fair in Tennessee.  The Putnam County Agricultural and Industrial Fair was awarded the Champion of Champions trophy by the Tennessee Association of Fairs on January 20, 2022, and board members have worked diligently to make this year’s fair even better. 

Our fair isn’t a Johnny-come-lately event.  Chickens & Cows & Pigs, Oh My!, the theme of this year’s fair, is the 96th Putnam County Fair.  All these years, it’s been presented, ‘put on’ as my granny would say, by volunteers – 539 volunteers this year, according to John Allen, Fair Board President. 

            When I heard that ‘exhibit fair watchers’ were needed, I signed up.  As I write this column, I’m sitting under the South grandstand where the produce and crops and photographs are displayed and I’m taken back to being a kid.  I’ve pulled suckers from knee-high corn plants and driven a tractor that pulled a wagon in a hayfield and dug potatoes and picked enough green beans to fill quart jar for Mom to can.

             My job tonight is to remind people not to touch the items that have been entered for competition.  A little tyke ducked under the single-chain barrier and rubbed both hands over a long-shaped watermelon, but before I even stood, his mother had corralled him.  Maybe it was the big blue “Best of Show” ribbon on the watermelon that was enticing.

            I’m impressed by the baskets of vegetables that are works of art entered as Garden Displays.  Professional and amateur photographers entered pictures in many categories and I applauded with a child’s family when he announced, “I got a blue ribbon!”   He’ll also be happy when he picks up his first-place prize money on Sunday.

            My watcher seat looks out to the Master Gardeners’ exhibit, a unique and beautiful presentation of plants, both flowering and non-flowering. And I’m close to the food booths and cotton candy and the midway where the Ferris wheel stops only long enough to unload and load.

If I’d been assigned to the Cultural Arts Building, I’d be surrounded by flower arrangements, potted plants, hand and machine-stitched clothing, needlework, quilts of all sizes, knitted items, paintings, and crafts made of wood and leather.  And food: canned fruit, jelly, pickles, cakes, cookies, candy, and pies.  (Granted, all probably looked more appetizing on entry day.)

Maybe you think the fair isn’t something you’d like – think again.  It’s the best $5 you’ll spend to appreciate life here in Putnam County, according to the man I met tonight who moved here from San Diego, California, six months ago. 

The fair gates open at 4:00.  Take in the exhibits, eat supper at a food booth, and shop at the country store.  For an additional cost, you can ride the Ferris wheel. Go on the night of your favorite event: a horse show, tractor pull, or demolition derby.  The fair comes only once a year!

Get more information at https://putnamcountyfair.org


Come Back to the Barnyard

My calendar is marked. F A I R! A line connects the dates Thursday, August 1 thru Saturday, August 10.

            The Putnam County Fair’s theme is “Come Back to the Barnyard….” That takes me to my childhood and my family’s barn hayloft where a girlfriend and I played. Rectangular hay bales tied with grass string were perfect for dividing the loft into rooms.  We stacked bales to make a kitchen table and one bale became a chair or couch.  Two bales side-by-side made a bed.  Barn kittens, wrapped in old towels, were our babies. We played house all morning. 

            I headed to that barn loft when the skies darken and clouds gathered.  I loved hearing the rain hit the tin roof and if I had my book, whatever I was reading, I’d settle into a corner and hope the rain didn’t stop before I’d read the last page.

            I didn’t grow up on a working farm, but even those of us who lived a mile from the Pickett County courthouse had a milk cow, pigs, chickens, and a horse or two.  One sow refused to nurse her newborn babies.  On a cold night while my parents played cards at their friends’ house, my older brother and I put the piglets in a cardboard box and carried them to our house.  The nipple of an animal feeding bottle was too big for the piglets’ tiny mouths, but my doll’s bottle was just the right size.  By the time our parents got home, the piglets were sound asleep and so were my brother and I, on the floor beside the box. (There’s a story about the hardwood floor under the box, but that’s for another day.)

            Grannie raised chickens.  Tiny fluff balls grew into hens and laid eggs.  Grannie could ease her hand under a sitting hen to gather eggs and the hen never moved.  I couldn’t.  I was sure the hen would peck me.

            When my grandfather’s cow birthed twin calves, Mom checked me out of school.  Inside Papa’s barn, one calf stood on wobbly legs.  I’d watched puppies be born, but the birth of more than one calf was rare – worth missing the last hour of school.  Dad, Papa, and the cow worked hard to birth the second calf. 

            The Putnam County Fair offers a glimpse of farm life.  A Petting Zoo: horses, dairy cows, sheep, goats, chickens, geese and more.  And live demonstrations: blacksmithing, broom making, spinning, weaving, soap making, and children’s games. As stated in the Fair booklet, the Come Back to the Fair exhibit will “reach back to our roots and recall and recreate the farm barnyard – the safe place we played as children.”  A safe place to play and learn about life.

            My Grands may never play in a barn loft or marvel at the birth of twin calves or gather eggs, but at the fair they can smell hay and stroke a calf’s nose and see chickens sitting on their nests.  

            Take your family and check out farm life, eat a burger and cotton candy, walk through the exhibits and ride the ferris wheel.  I’ll see you there! ####

Who Will Volunteer?

Who can help? Who wants to? Who has time? Hearing these questions, I’ve turned away. Ducked my head. Avoided eye contact. But other times, I’ve raised my hand. Committed to a time and place. Completed the assignment.

            My first volunteer work was before I knew what I was doing was volunteering. When the pianist of my small church went away to college, there was no one to play the piano. Except my cousin and me, neither accomplished pianists and both young teenagers, but we were willing, so we alternated weekly during our high school years.

On the Sundays I played, the song selection was limited. The song leader chose songs written in the key of C or with no more than two sharps or four flats and a song I knew. I carried away two things from that teen-age experience. It felt good to play a role in my church. To serve and not be paid. And church members often said thank you and encouraged me.

Through the years, I’ve taken on volunteer jobs. Visited senior citizens in retirement homes. Served as advisor to my college sorority. Read with and tutored young students. Taught 4th grade Sunday school. Delivered meals to shut-ins. Served on community boards. Helped out during the high school state football championship games. Picked up litter.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in four Tennesseans volunteered in 2015. Many organizations depend on volunteers, but does the experience help the volunteer? According to an article in Psychology Today, there are five benefits. Volunteers live longer and are healthier. Volunteering establishes strong relationships. Volunteering is good for your career. Volunteering is good for society. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. And I’d add, it’s fun.

People in our community volunteer as evidenced recently by the clean up after May’s wind damage and the rescue of those stranded at Cummins Falls. Volunteers are committed to making their community better and helping others. A listing of almost 400 organizations popped up when I googled volunteer opportunities in Putnam County, Tennessee. We can choose our volunteer jobs.

My next one is at the Putnam County Fair. When I learned that the fair needed volunteers, I signed up. To welcome visitors, offer help, and be an ambassador for Putnam County. No experience is necessary. Just a smile and willing attitude. An opportunity to be a part of a ten-day event where 52,000 people walked through the gates last year.

You can volunteer at the fair, too. Email info@putnamcountyfair.org and give your mailing address and telephone number. (And check out the website: putnamcountyfair.org) Each volunteer will receive a ten-day pass for the event. Volunteers are needed for most evenings. Some for three hours, some five.

When I was 14 and played “In the Garden” on the church’s upright piano, I didn’t know I was beginning a way of life that would span decades and lead to directing Putnam County Fair visitors to the nearest bathroom.

If you aren’t a volunteer, try it. You get more than you give.


Come to the FAIR

search-1My calendar is marked with big red letters. F A I R! An arrow connects the dates. Thursday, July 30th- Saturday, August 8th. Sometime, and hopefully more than once, during those ten days I’ll get my Fair fix at the Putnam County Fair. A fix of memories, food, exhibits, seeing friends, and new experiences.

I always try to entice someone to go with me. “The exhibit building is air-conditioned. There are lots of mouth-watering cakes and candy and jars of pickles and beans. And all kinds of needlework. We’ll walk thru quickly, see everything, and then eat supper at one of the concession stands and then to the Country Store to buy homemade candy.” I don’t say that I also want to see the farm crops. From the largest watermelon to the best sheaf of yellow corn. And I can’t miss the photographs: Historic Tennessee to Tells a Story, even a Selfie. And I’ll check out the Lego models in the Hobby fair.

Then on to the concession stands. Time was that the choices were limited. Hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, potato chips. Or a bowl of pinto beans with a hunk of cornbread. Now, there’s pizza, barbeque, chicken sandwiches – anything you want.   Somehow, a Fair cheeseburger is better than any other, even one I hand press from expensive beef and Husband cooks on the grill. And every time I sit on a hard concrete concession stand bench, I see someone who I haven’t seen in ages. Someone, who I knew well in the past. Who will I see and catch up with while eating a Fair cheeseburger?

On to the Midway. Bright, blinking lights. The ferris wheel. The shooting range. The carousel. The smell that’s the same since I first smelled it in 1967. The huge metal slide. The slide, that my then five-year-old Grand rode down three years ago when I thought she’d get to the top of the steps, freeze, and cry. She waved to me, spread out a ragged burlap feedbag, sat down, pushed herself off, and grinned all the way to the bottom. She was my only Fair companion that Thursday afternoon and cotton candy never taste so good. We sat in the shade of the grandstand, watched tractors smooth the dirt in the arena for that night’s horse show, and we savored every morsel of the purple and pink spun sugar. That was supper.

And on my very first trip to the Fair, Husband and I, college sweethearts, rode the Tilt-A-Whirl. The weather was cool and the Tilt-A-Whirl jerked fast. I leaned under his arm when we were slammed against the side of the metal bucket, and he wrapped both his arms tightly around me.

For me, a Fair experience must include the barns to see the prize cows and pigs and chickens. The Master Gardeners displays. The commercial exhibits. And finally, to the Country Store for homemade fudge.

And then I always notice what’s happening in the arena. A Monster Truck Show. And I hear music from the Music Barn. So many choices and the Fair comes only once a year.

For more information visit the website, www.putnamcountyfair.org, or pick up a Fair book at a local bank, the Putnam Farmers’ Co-op, or the County Extension Office.

The Fair motto is “Come make a fair memory.”  Making memories at the Fair – it happens every summer.

Wait ’til Next Year’s Fair



We were stuck.  Front bumper against the railing.  Cars whizzed past.  I turned the steering wheel.  Our car didn’t move.  A yellow car bumped ours.  My four-year-old Grand held on for dear life.  “Ruth, help me turn the wheel,” I said.  Her blue eyes opened wider as she gripped the metal bar in front of her even tighter.  Three cars bumped ours as they went past.

I looked toward the man in the red vest.  The man leaning against the side of the bumper car track and who’d mumbled, “Put your arms in a strap,” as he lower a round metal bar over mine and Ruth’s heads.  I made eye contact with the red-vested man and threw up my hands in despair.  “PUSH THE PEDAL!” he shouted.  My feet were scrunched under my twisted legs on the left side of the bumper car, far from the pedal on the right side.  The pedal, under the steering wheel and a long leg length in front of Ruth’s short legs.

Husband and I took our three oldest Grands – ages 4, 6, and 8 – to the county fair.  I’d given each Grand some money to spend however they wanted.  We walked through the arts and crafts building and checked out the petting zoo.  “Now, can we go see the rides?”  Asked Lou, age 6.  We checked out every ride.  The older two Grands decided they’d ride two rides and buy cotton candy.  Or one ride, cotton candy, and take money home.  Lou and Ruth rode the fish that went up and down and around in a circle.

“Pop,” said David, “will you ride the bumper cars with me?”  He stood beside the painted board that proved he’s tall enough to drive a car.  “Not with me – in a different car.”  Pop headed toward the ticket booth.

“Pop!”  Lou called, “I want to ride.  Can I ride with you?”

“Me, too!” shouted Ruth.  In the time it took me to blink my eyes, it was decided that Ruth and I would ride together and Husband had the tickets in hand and all five of us were hustled toward bumper cars and we got in three separate cars.  I was concerned that my Grand beside me was safe and could steer the car.  It never occurred to me that anyone had to push a pedal.

“PUSH THE PEDAL!”  shouted the man in the red vest.  I untangled my legs, stretched out my right leg, and stomped the pedal.  “Hold on, Ruth,” I said.  I turned the steering wheel all the way to the left and we swerved off the rail.

Smack!  We hit the boy who’d laughed when he bumped our car.  We made a turn at the end of the track and five cars, including two that my Grands were riding in, were headed toward us.  I swerved to bump David’s car and maneuvered between two others.  Open track ahead.  Those five cars were stuck in a traffic jam behind us.  We made two complete circles on the open track.  The yellow car, driven by a teenage boy, broke loose and headed toward us.  I avoided the bump and hit the back of his car.  And then the ride stopped.  “Everybody out,” said the man in the red vest.

Husband, our Grands, and I walked toward the cotton candy booth.  “That bumper car ride went by really fast,” David said.

“Did you see me and Pop hit that red car?” said Lou.

“I like that ride,” said Ruth.  Me, too.  Just wait ‘til next year.  We’ll be ready.