Our Opinion: Kingdom fair organizers turn back the clock

Organizers of Callaway County’s fair this year are trying something new by revisiting the past.

The intention is to rebound from dwindling interest and attendance.

After the week-long Kingdom of Callaway County Fair concludes on Aug. 3, they will assess an important question: Did their plan work?

And the answer to that question could prompt re-evaluation of county fairs elsewhere in Missouri.

County fairs in America have evolved throughout history from small, agriculture-centered events to entertainment-oriented extravaganzas.

According to the Discover Mid-America website, fairs were common in the American colonies in the 18th century, and began to flourish in the early 19th century with the development of agricultural organizations as the driving force.

The site quotes Mary Shafter, author of “Rural America, A Pictorial Folk Memory,” with this description: “Children showed off their budding skills in animal care and husbandry; mothers participated in contests pitting their favorite food recipes against those of neighbors near and far; and fathers entered their favorite draft animals in friendly competition against their peers in weight-pulling contests.”

Today, the lineup at county fairs typically focuses grandstand events — rock concerts and demolition derbies — and higher ticket prices.

Getting back to basics is a goal voiced by Bill Gentzsch, a board member for the Kingdom of Callaway fair.

“That’s what we’re trying to do this time, a good ol’ country fair with old-fashioned events. I think people enjoy that a little better.”

He added: “I think we’re going to have to come back to what people believe in. I think people are just wanting to get back to a simpler way of life, and that’s the kind of fair we have to put on.”

Time will tell.

Are county residents simply voicing nostalgic sentiments or are they willing to support an old-fashioned county fair with their attendance and participation?

The Kingdom of Callaway County Fair organizers are investing in a bold experiment. We wish them the best.

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