For the past, I don't know, decade or so, part of my Labor Day weekend has consisted of placing little pieces of Velcro to the back of photography labels.
Then I alphabetize them.
And I take them to the 4-H Exhibit Building at the Clay County Fairgrounds.
Where they are used to identify the photographer of each of the hundreds of images Clay County 4-H'ers enter in competition.
I put together the display of photos.
It's one way I contribute to the fair.
Some people check in hundreds of jars of canned goods.
Other fling open shutters and scrub down tables in the service group dining halls.
Friends give a hand in setting up sales booths in the Varied Industries Building.
Hooves will be clipped and sheep sheared; race cars tuned up and spare bedrooms cleaned out in preparation for fair visitors.
The Clay County Fair is a true community effort. Young and old, we all work together to ensure the success of the fair.
It's a combination of homecoming, family reunion and nine-day smorgasbord all rolled into one.
And it's a time I look forward to all year long.
Other fairs may be bigger, and others may be flashier, but we hold the crown for fair with the most heart and soul in it.
Like me, nearly everyone in Clay County has his or her role to play in making the fair such a success. We all take pride in our little contribution to the fair. And, we all count on some hectic days, juggling "real life" and "fair life."
My pre-fair craziness isn't as crazy this year, with our 4-H'er off to college, and no sheep to shear, or (and I won't miss this) 4-H dance to chaperone. I must admit to some sadness over the rolling on of time. But, no fear, there will still be young nieces and nephews showing in 4-H, and Grandpa and Grandma Johnson will still be on hand with their string of Simmintals. The fair tradition continues.
That's the wonderful thing about the fair - while some things change, there's a sense that, underneath it all, its core remains the same.
Fair general manager Jeremy Parsons has already made his presence known, with some new additions to the event, and some changes in procedure. He also had the good sense to recognize right away that we've got something pretty special up here in northwest Iowa. You don't fix something that isn't broken. You enhance it. And, it's my sense that is exactly what Parsons will do in his tenure at the helm of the fair.
I'm a fair girl. Always have been, always will be. While I'm sad to see the end of summer, which Labor Day signifies, I'm also happy. After all, the holiday marks the start of the most exciting two weeks in our area.
The most wonderful time of the year?
Why, it's fair time!