Farm Bureau Insight: Fair Life Lessons

By Greg Doering, Kansas Farm Bureau

In a few days, the local county fair will kick off marking the beginning of summer’s end as classes begin in the following weeks. But for a few short, hot days, the fair offers a little bit of everything for everyone between the midway and mutton busting.

I’m still confident (arrogant) enough in my athletic ability (rapidly deteriorating) that I know with enough practice (cash) I could beat the carnival games and win a (pity) prize. I’m also mature (old) enough to know I’d rather save my money for the assortment of fried foods (because calories and cholesterol don’t count at the fair).

We usually skip the entertainment tent, finding the aforementioned mutton busting and the pedal pull more amusing. Plus, there’s no shortage of other projects to take in, from walking past the stalls of the livestock barn to seeking the refuge of air conditioning in the exhibition hall to look at all the entries there.

The fried food and sugary treats are especially tasty after viewing the supersized produce entered in the garden category. Joking aside, I’m always impressed with the variety of projects 4-Hers enter at the fair, many of which take a lot of time and effort that’s often unseen in the final product. 4-H members also have a chance to have photos at their local fair featured in a future edition of “Kansas Living” by submitting. Pictures must be submitted by Oct. 1 at

It’s also easy to forget the fair isn’t simply showing off the end result after months of planning and labor. Exhibition also requires courage and self-confidence to compare one’s work against others in front of a judge. In many ways, the county fair is a laboratory of everyday life.

Participants have to weigh their responsibilities against the rampant temptations of rides, food, friends and games. Impulse control is also helped by the auctions, and associated premiums, held the final night. There’s just less time for the money to burn holes in a pocket. Class champions also must decide between going to auction or advancing their project to the state fair.

However, it all turns out, there’s always lifelong memories made. Time will heal the hurt of finishing as the reserve champion, and it generally happens quickly since there’s plenty of friends and acquaintances around who haven’t been seen since school ended in May.

Perhaps the greatest lesson is that sometimes indulging in excess is OK. Like consuming way too many calories. It’s perfectly reasonable to have an unbalanced meal consisting of a corndog and a funnel cake. Or finally having the courage to tackle the scary ride this year. Or maybe risking a shoulder injury to win a teddy bear.

Afterall, it’s just once a year the carnival lights brighten the night sky at the county fair. There’s no real world need to bust mutton, but it’s the best part of any rodeo. And those pedal pullers will soon graduate to more powerful machines. Everything in moderation, including moderation, so be sure to savor all the lessons available at your county fair this year.

“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service. 

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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