Tucked away in several stalls in building number one of the Warren County Fair a family moved with determination to get their steers ready for a show. They moved from steer to steer with a precision that has been learned over the years.
The Moffitt family, Iowa Soybean Association members from Indianola, has a five-generation tradition of participating and attending the Warren County Fair. During that time, they and many other families that participate in fairs across Iowa have embodied the tradition, family values, and spirit of competition that can only be found at Iowa’s great county fairs.
Each year a thriving community forms in the barns and the grounds of county fairs across the state made up of 4-H and FFA youth and their families. The fairs offer them a place to compete against others with the livestock they’ve raised, and it also gives them the chance to visit with friends and neighbors.
Kurt Moffitt is proud that the experiences and competition he experienced showing at the Warren County Fair while growing up is already being passed to his three children.
“It’s a lot of hard work. Maybe even more hard work than when we were kids,” Moffitt said as he watched his sons and daughter work with a calf. “We have a lot of livestock here and I’m trying to let them do their thing and meet new people.”
He went on to say the routine of getting up every morning to do chores for the 22 animals they brought to the fair has made his kids more responsible.
“At the end of the week hopefully it will be a decent check for them and a good experience,” he said. “At the very least it is a way for them to meet new people and connect with others while staying off their electronics for a week.”
Maurice Moffitt, Kurt’s father, has seen many changes during his five-plus decades at the Warren County Fair. As the board president for 20 years he was a part of improving the buildings and grounds so the fair could offer participants great facilities to show off their projects.
“The fair was the highlight of the summer when it came around,” Maurice Moffitt said while remembering his years of showing at the fair in the early sixties. “It was hard work and you were busy. It was a competition, and I remember the hard work paid off.”
Cynthia Moffitt, Kurt’s wife, feels the fair offers a chance for people not directly involved in agriculture to experience it firsthand.
“Iowa is an agricultural state, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t directly connected to it, so county fairs provide an opportunity for those folks to learn and understand a big part of our economy,” she said. “If we as farming families can help connect those other families with agriculture, then we feel like we’ve done our job.”
Working at the fair is a year-round passion for Jo Reynolds, the Warren County Fair manager.
“People say ‘I’ll bet you’re glad fair week is over,’ and I always say no I work all year for this week. It’s a love, it’s a passion, it’s a sickness,” he said, smiling. “But it’s the people that make this.”
She went on to say the history and tradition of family farms are about families coming together. That’s why she believes it’s important for fairs to showcase their dedication and hard work.
“I’ve always said we are raising kids, not livestock,” she said. “The livestock have always been a vessel to help children or exhibitors learn responsibility and some of those things in life. I think it’s tradition, heritage and the history that makes these fairs special.”
Even with her hectic schedule during the fair you can see her visit with exhibitors and visitors she bumps into at the fair.
“I would hope people would come to (the fair) be educated. To learn that milk doesn’t come from the grocery store and pork comes from the pig itself,” she said. “I’m trying to provide more education so we can continue being the state that feeds the world, and with that we want to provide the entertainment to fairgoers because the entertainment brings the people. But education is our big goal.”
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By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager