By Carol Stiffler

Luce and West Mackinac counties, let’s go to the fair next weekend.

Our community is small, and our fair is small. Our community used to be bigger, and our fair used to be bigger.

Even so, we have this gift of an annual county fair, scheduled for July 29-August 1, where local farmers and artists and children can show you the things they are most proud of. Go there to support them. They are us.

The fair is a remarkably charitable event, exactly the kind of thing our society pines for these days. Admission is bare bones cheap: Free on Thursday, and $5 per carload on Friday through Sunday. Once you’re in, you’re in. The only thing that costs extra is the food and the massively popular bump-and-run derby.

The petting zoo is free, so children can be delighted by mini donkeys, horses, and rabbits.

The exhibit hall is free, and entering a display at the exhibit is free, so we can see what our neighbors can do. You will learn something surprising about someone you thought you knew.

The music performances are free, so we can be entertained and uplifted.

The inflatable bounce house and bungee run are free, if you’re feeling perky.

The carriage rides are free, so we can mosey around in rustic style and remember our roots.

Monetary awards are given whenever possible; the fair gives back in so many ways.

There’s no carnival this year, though organizers tried very hard to bring one. A lack of staff caused the carnival company to pull out, though they’re hoping to visit this September. At its core, though, a fair was always about more than its carnival, no matter how fun the rides are.

The essence of the fair is animals, livestock, and agriculture. The fair points us back to agriculture every year, reminding us who we really are.

We are all very connected to this land, around the world, but even more so in rural areas. We are tied to this land. From it comes our food, and our sport, and our tourist guests. Without it, we’d disappear into cities–against the grain of who we know we are.

The very small Luce-West Mackinac County Fair Board is made up of people who have other jobs. The board has limitless potential and has room for so many more helpers. That could be any one of us, serving in a food booth, or at the front gate, or helping repair the fences. We could be assisting with the troubled pipes in the men’s bathroom.

If we help the fair thrive, we will be holding up our community; our hands formed into a basket, our people inside.

Yes, the fair is smaller than it used to be. But it is still a local effort, a gift to all of us, and a chance to peer at the impressive fabric that makes up our communities.

Let’s go to the fair.