Why We Love County Fairs
September 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Why We Love County Fairs
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.
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.
I am always impressed by the sheer volume of art and crafts on display—the people of that area must be very artistic.
We supported the 4H program at the Power County Fair, and purchased a pig from Wes and a steer from Rachel at the auction.
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.
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.
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.
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.