The Coconino County Fair celebrated its 69th year this Labor Day weekend at historic Fort Tuthill County Park, where more than 40,000 people attended the event. The County Fair celebrated community members’ skills and achievements, and connected the community through four days of fun, education and merriment.
The County Fair is truly a community event where adult and youth community members exhibited animals and handicrafts, and people of all ages enjoyed the various entertainment acts, carnival rides and games. Local businesses helped support the fair by becoming sponsors, and, in turn, furthered fair programming and operations. Sponsors and vendors helped make the fair a dynamic experience for fairgoers and showcased new and exciting innovations.
So often people think of county fairs as a throwback to a bygone era, when in fact many of society’s popular pastimes have a direct tie-in to fairs’ history of community and celebration, such as photography and storytelling, STEM-related subjects like robotics, and the resurgence of a “maker” or “do-it-yourself” community that is reflected in the arts and crafts entries in home economics and animal keeping. There were several STEM-related activities that fair attendees enjoyed, including Underwater Robotics; Flagstaff Unified School District’s robotics team, CocoNuts; and Kids for Conservation, a program through the NAU School of Forestry.
Much as traditional county fairs brought community members together to celebrate agricultural achievements, today’s county fairs do that and more. No longer focusing exclusively on agriculture, but instead celebrating agriculture as its foundation, the Coconino County Fair showcased and applauded community members’ achievements in creating art, jewelry, crafts, home economics, horticulture, floriculture and animal raising and showmanship. Some community members prepared their entries or exhibits throughout the year, meeting in clubs or groups, and then entered their items into specific divisions in the fair.
By encouraging entries and exhibits through participation in local 4-H Clubs and the Northern Arizona Junior Livestock Association, the County Fair helped instill the next generation with business skills, community partnerships and camaraderie. Dedicated community members, or fair superintendents, also connected adult community members and youth who are not necessarily engaged in 4-H.
Community members were recruited to conduct demonstrations or workshops for fair visitors, like silversmithing and lapidary, knitting on a loom, crocheting, sewing, fiber and spinning, and creating herbal vinegar and cooking oil infusions. They shared their knowledge, skills and experience with the broader community by engaging in the pastimes they love. They also helped share valuable information and skills with the next generation.
The County Fair created additional educational programming around entries, to bridge community knowledge and celebrate innovations and artistic endeavors. For a solid investment in community resources, look no further than the Coconino County Fair. FBN
By Cynthia Nemeth
Cynthia Nemeth is the Coconino County Parks and Recreation director.