Archived Story

Jack Strayer: Mid-county’s magical memory-making machine

Published 12:51am Thursday, August 23, 2012

The just-ended 67th Annual Berrien County Youth Fair was a real memory-making machine. Each day, thousands of families poured through the gates with unbridled excitement, deciding what exhibits to see first.

Of course, many kids were showing animals and spent the entire fair near their cows, pigs, chickens, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, llamas, alpacas, hamsters, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and just about anything else with four legs. Fair youth even earn college money by auctioning off their livestock to the highest bidder.

Besides the popular midway, the fairgrounds offer several barns filled with still exhibits ranging from imaginative arts and crafts, photography, fruits and vegetables, canned and baked goods, flower arrangements and hand-made clothing. Everyone wins a ribbon!

Thousands of volunteers and a truly dedicated professional staff work at the fairgrounds year-round to make sure that the third week in August is a success.

But the fair is more than a week in August. It is an agrarian institution that was founded to serve and inspire young people. It teaches them about responsibility, pride, values and the spirit of competition.

I just spent six days and 80 hours working at the Expo Arena booth. But I am not going to focus on my job here. I’d rather talk about the magic of the people of Berrien County. From my vantage point in Commercial Building 37, Booth 16, I had the opportunity to “people watch” and enjoyed every magical moment.

I saw moms and dads walking the fair as one happy unit with their teenage children who were NOT texting on their iPhones. I saw strollers by the hundreds, sometimes filled with three or more children, all laughing and having a ball.  I saw a number of grandparents with a mob of little ones swirling about them.

It went on 12 hours a day, every day for a week. It was a magical place and a memory-making machine offering the best that Berrien County has to offer: its people. No matter what age, everyone felt young.

Because the nonprofit fairgrounds are located in Berrien Springs, the Berrien County Youth Fair serves the entire county, from the Four Flags area of Niles and Buchanan, to Harbor Country, the Sunset Coast, the Twin Cities, the North County communities of Coloma and Watervliet and the rural towns of Sodus, Eau Claire and Berrien Center.  Berrien Springs is smack dab in the middle of the county and is living proof that everyone in the county appreciates the magic of “Mid County.”

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