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Guest blog by Colby Cummings

 It’s close to the time of year where, especially in the midwest, the division in the stock show world becomes so evident that there are no fence riders.

You either love the county fair, hate the county fair, or you die by the sword of it.

I mean who doesn’t wanna go for a week and live off of $8 funnel cakes and $4 lemonade?

In some cases, for over a century, the county fair has become the staple of everything good in America. The good hearted volunteers, the eager youngsters who’ve worked so hard at home for the previous six months, the thrill of the midway, and the good clean fun. You could easily say that when done right, the county fair can be the greatest week your community can experience each year.

But then, there are others.

I guess the debate for so many of us is not the fair in itself, it’s the management. It’s the old guard of those that have been around since our parents were showing and now they have to deal with their children and grandchildren dealing with the same groundhog day exploits.

Don’t get me wrong this is not for all fairs and expos but I also feel this can apply to a few. And, I’d like to see that changed. I’d like every kid in the USA be able to experience some of the great county fair experiences out there.

Thus, this blog is for the fair management and volunteers. It’s my take on how to make your county fair great for another 100 years.

Because, let’s be honest, the stereotype in what I’m about to describe is out there. And in some cases, extremely strong. So strong that there are families who skip the county and even some state fairs because it just isn’t a positive experience.

We need to fix that.


If you take offense to what I’m about to say, then good. That means you’ve got a lot of soul searching to do.

I have seen more friendships and lifelong relationships destroyed at the county intergalactic over anywhere else in the world. Again, Dale and Ryan touched on this in one of their first podcast and I think Hummel hit the nail on the head….

 The reason why people are so uptight about that third level of hell is because you have to face those people day in and day out in the community. Sometimes, folks let their  pride get in the way of something that really doesn’t matter.

On the flip side of that coin, there are families that work all year and try to win their county over any show in the world. That’s great if that’s what your goal is…. no judgement here.

The part where the tear is happens when some of those who aim for county take it out on those wanting more. There is nothing wrong with either, but each deserves respect. Whether you’re shooting for your county fair or the national champion, respect the goals of each of those individuals.


Now, the next part not only will I step on toes, but it might look like I did a 90s line dance from a Brooks and Dunn video. Don’t worry my lightning shirt is starched and ready to go…

Why is it that people at the local fair get on a power trip worse than some government officials?

People will literally create, adjust and make new rules just to beat “certain families.” That’s wrong. And it’s ridiculous. But, when people point it out, everyone gets mad.

It should be a requirement that if you serve on a committee, you have to travel to at least one other fair or show before you start dictating what and how people do things.
There are tons of great shows and fairs out there. Go visit them. See how the corn dogs taste three counties away.

And, if you serve on a fair board – from county to state to whatever….I’m begging you to take into consideration thoughts and opinions of those who do go to multiple shows a year, show multiple species. Understand that those of us who go to a lot of shows are  legit trying to make it better for the kids and all those involved. There is no hidden agenda for us to try to “rig” the county fair in anyone’s favor.

The downfall of any company or entity is this phrase “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and for that you’re doing a disservice to every exhibitor and their family in the process.


Growing is part of life. Getting feedback, and listening to suggestions from exhibitors is part of what makes a great fair.

When people give a suggestion, they aren’t trying to take the fair board spot that you have reserved for your grandchildren in your will. Ask your exhibitors how they like the show. Send out a survey. Get feedback.

In the same way, give feedback to the exhibitors as to the “why” of changes that need to be made. This is really important when making rules or changing rules. Just explain why. If you’re making decisions based on how things were done 50 years ago, you’re losing the battle.

Be welcoming. You can’t get more people involved if you keep pushing people away.

Spending time at the county fair is one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime for so many kids. But, sadly there are grown ups out there worried about how they can get access to a golf cart and how many trucks then can tow, rather than how many kids they are impacting.

Let the Livestock Kids Know They Are Important

We know there are lots of great parts to a fair. We get that. But the livestock kids are important too.

When shows treat exhibitors like a sideshow freak don’t be shocked when they go somewhere else. Its just like a relationship, exhibitors will flock to the shows that are easy to get to, have sensible rules, and treat the exhibitors with respect. Or, exhibitors these days will only take so much before they move on and go somewhere they are appreciated and enjoy themselves.

Its okay to think outside the box, find different ways to fundraise, and find ways to make a memorable time for the kids. Look at the Cattleman’s Congress. Look at some of the innovative ways shows in Texas have adapted and changed over the last few years.

Most parents that are serious about their kids stock show careers will bend over backwards to help a fair board member or volunteer. You just simply have to ask. We respect the time and money y’all put in and when you need some help, we are glad to jump in.

Build Your Board Leadership

 Most boards these days are lacking leadership. We have some great mentors out there, take advantage of them. Take advantage of fair leadership development. Fair conventions, things like that. Go to these events and have a great time and pick up some professional development.

If you’re just on a fair board because you wanna flex and tell everyone you’re in charge, that’s the wrong reason. Learn how to handle complaints. It seems like there are a lot of people who want to wear a badge, but the minute someone challenges them on something, they immediately change to “oh i’m just a volunteer here.”

Dealing with issues or questions is part of it, sis. If you want the golf cart and the nice parking spot, be willing to enforce the rules and go to bat for the fair when needed. Respect that people’s heart and soul have been in this project for a year and if they are upset or passionate about something, you need to see their point of view.

And please don’t ask opinions, waste time with meetings, calls, etc for you to keep doing what you’ve always done. Most people don’t have time for that type of so called social justice.

Board members, don’t be like longterm politicians.

Know when to bow out, and help empower the next generation. If you don’t, eventually what you built or what you wanted to be a reflection of your legacy will go backwards on you.

When you feel you are not making a contribution, its okay to step down and let someone else come in. Use that time to become a mentor, an advisor. More than likely,  your opinion and input will still be respected. Heck, they might let you keep your parking spot and throw in a golf cart just ’cause.

Making The Future Better for Everyone at the Fair

In the last few years especially, I’ve seen how shows had to revamp and rebuild. And, it’s made them better.  As someone who loves this industry, I enjoy watching growth and seeing the work you started grow by others to make the same goal successful:  rewarding the youth of the stock show industry.

 I always compare cattle showing to sports teams and associations. They want the best because they want to keep people coming to the games and participate. If not, there’s empty stadiums and parking lots and they go away. 

A lot of fairs are facing this exact problem due to one thing, insanity. The definition of insanity is doing the same plan over and over again and expecting different results. Then you wonder why you have families slowly fade out and would rather drive 8 hours somewhere. 

Again, it’s a relationship. Make people feel like they are wanted and you’ll reap the reward.