Why We Love County Fairs

Why We Love County Fairs

South Bannock County Fairgrounds

Daniel and Kory at our booth at the Bear Lake County Fair

One of the privileges of living in rural America is an annual pilgrimage to your local county fair. The fair is one of those traditions that probably hasn’t changed too much over the years—at least not since I have been sitting at our Direct Communications booth at the fair each year, observing the folks walking through the commercial buildings—moms pushing strollers with balloons tied on, followed by three or more little kids, and usually a husband in cowboy boots tagging further behind, just looking around nonchalantly at all the displays. The smells, sounds, and tastes of the fair are probably the same as they were 100 years ago.

Direct Communications is an avid supporter of county fairs. County Fairs represent so much of what is special, good and different about strong rural communities—kids enjoy the fruits of their 4-H labors, we celebrate farming, small town life, small local businesses, and old-fashioned homemaking skills that have all but disappeared from most of modern society.

Daniel at our booth in Grace.

Fair season in Idaho for us began again this year, as it does every year, with the Caribou County Fair in Grace, Idaho. We have been in the same spot for many years, and still I have not been smart enough to hang a permanent sign above our booth. Many years I have nearly broken my neck standing on the top of a tall ladder, to try hang a sign from the rafters of the old barn with bungee cords. The rest of the vendors watch with interest to see what will happen. This year our good tech Dan Greenup, was kind enough to hang our big banner for us over from the rafters using his special cable installer ladder and wiring skills. I can’t talk about the Caribou County Fair without mentioning Sandra Findley, who coordinates with us vendors, who is always a great help at the fair every year—this year she even lent us her personal vacuum to clean up some sawdust left from trying to put more holes in our wind booth.

One of the challenges for a small company like us is hosting booths at two different fairs concurrently, because the South Bannock County Fair in Downey was held during the same week as the Bear Lake County Fair in Montpelier. So, we had to recruit one of our outside sales representatives from our Utah exchange  to help us cover all the shifts that week. The South Bannock County Fair in Downey is fascinating to me. We are placed inside the commercial buildings by the fair office, and this year were one of only two local businesses inside, but we are lucky to be surrounded by local artwork, and this is the only fair we attend where our building is cooled, so it’s nice to be inside on a hot august afternoon.

Our booth in Downey.

An art display at the South Bannock County Fair.

I am always impressed by the sheer volume of art and crafts on display—the people of that area must be very artistic.

Rachel and her steer with Kip Wilson at the Power County Fair 4H Auction.

We supported the 4H program at the Power County Fair, and purchased a pig from Wes and a steer from Rachel at the auction.

Thank-you note from Rachel, a college-bound 4H participant at the county fair this summer.

Unfortunately, we could not set up a commercial booth there, simply because that would mean being at three fairs at the same time, but we hope that supporting the 4H at this fair will show we are involved here too.

Thank-you note from Wes.

Wes and his 4H pig with Kip Wilson of Direct Communications.

In Preston, we used to be in a commercial booth with a closing garage door—part of a line of permanent indoor booths. However, last year that row burned down after a vendor had a grease fire. This year, those buildings were completely gone, so I guess we will be outside in a canopy for good.

The burned-down booth row has been removed. This is where we were for many years.

This new setup is actually better for foot traffic because all the booths, including food, are together on the lawn—the only thing is we couldn’t install a cable drop to a tent, so we had to make do without the  internet and our cable TV and Tivo product demo display.

We really enjoyed being in your home towns, seeing your artwork, crafts, and even judging Apple Pie contests; meeting our customers, talking to local residents about our service and fiber optic cable network construction now taking place in many of these towns. The fairs are a great source of information because people are not in a great hurry, and are often willing to talk about their internet service in general terms—who they are using now, what they use their internet for, what they like or don’t like about their current providers, so it’s almost like doing a very large and very extended focus group.

Daniel at our new outside booth in Preston.

We handed out a whole lot of candy, and many boxes of Frisbees and t-shirts. We also tried something new this year, and constructed a money/coupon wind booth, which we called our “Cash Cave.” Customers could step inside the Cave and had 30 seconds to grab as many bills or money-saving coupons as they could. We had several new customers, and 14 current customers, win free service in our cash cave, including one who grabbed a YEAR of FREE service.

Come and see us next year again at the fair.

Direct Communications Opens New Retail Store in Preston

Direct Communications, Preston’s local cable company, recently opened a retail and customer service location at 138 S State, Preston, and would like to extend an invitation to all residents of Preston to visit their new location, try their products on display,  and see what new services are available to them.

Brendon Larsen, 17, of Preston, one of the sales representatives working at the new store, explains that the store actually opened in March, but it wasn’t until they put the new sign up outside the store that people really began walking in. “Usually people will see the sign, and recognize the name because a friend told them about their cable TV or internet service from Direct Communications. Most of our business comes through referrals.”

While the space inside the storefront is small, judging by the range of services on offer this is a company with large ambitions.

“We have our entire digital cable lineup playing on the big screen TV, so people can browse through our channels, see the picture quality. We have a computer setup so people can sit and try our high-speed internet. Right now we have our connection at the store set at 5Mb, and we are seeing fairly consistent speeds. We also have our digital VOIP phone set up, which uses our cable internet connection to make calls, and that is actually the only phone line we use at our businesses, so people can test that out, make a couple of calls and see how it compares to traditional phone service.”

Brendon says working at the new store has been a good job for him, and talking to people about communications services is something he enjoys compared to other things he might be doing. “It pays well, and will look good on my resume when I apply for college.”

Jeremy Smith, General Manager for Direct Communications Cable, explains why the company decided to open a retail location in Preston.

“Ever since we purchased the Preston TV franchise from Comcast, we have been looking for ways to improve customer service, and bring a local flavor to the cable network. We know we have a lot of competition from national providers, so we thought a physical location in Preston would help bring our services to the people, increase convenience and create value, because we can show we are a local company, where you can walk in talk to a local representative anytime, face to face. Hopefully that is still worth something today.”

Brendon says current customers use the store to come in and pay their bill, saving them the cost of mailing it in, and to make quick upgrades or changes to their service. “They sometimes come in with technical questions—if I can’t give them an answer right away, I at least can refer them to the right person in tech support immediately.”

The store is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm.

“If new people come in, and try our products, they will usually sign up for service. Actually, I had a salesman walk in the other day, trying to sell me a newspaper or magazine subscription, and he ended up walking away with internet service from us.”

Direct Communications has been providing internet service to Preston residents since 1999, and offers Telephone, Internet and cable TV services throughout southeast Idaho.