Chamber Director's Blog

County Fair Reflections--Where The Cultural & Commercial Intersect

The Gogebic County Fair ended Sunday night, August 11.  By 8:30 p.m., your Chamber Director had the Chamber booth all taken down, boxed up, and carted out to the car.  This year's weather was outstanding:  not hot and no rain!  

     The GCF is almost one hundred years old.  It was started in a time when this area was awash in people, massive extractive industry (mostly owned by people who did not live here), and a mix of agricultural and trade/commercial enterprises.  Now, in 2019, the extractives (and their owners) are gone, the population is but a shadow of its former self, and an new mix of commercial entrepreneuership is begining to develop.  Elements of this new mix were in evidence at the Fair, from large displays of recreational vehicles to a youth educational hands-on by Waupaca Foundry Plant #7, a new Ironwood industrial business.  Culturally, the traditional "fair" things were still in evidence:  homemaking entries, fabric entries, 4-H animal and art entries, the "midway rides," tractor pulls, harness racing, cotton candy, and live music at both a small stage and the grandstand.  All in all it was an experience that celebrates and lifts up both our sodio-economic traditions as well as providing some hints as to new directions.   Fairs are also a time of people greeting, re-uniting, and making life transitions.  Sunday especiallly is a day where the full range of human interactions can be seen, whether "oldsters" meeting up and greeting (both local and returning visitors) or (as the Director remembers from his own every-year rural county fair attendance) where teenagers wander around in groups or couples, knowing that summer is ending, and school--with its new opportunities--awaits.  The grass is all worn down from thousands of people stomping on it.  Tired 4-H'ers and the parents load up their precious livestock and head home.  Prize winners collect their ribbons.  Taken all together, the instituion of the County Fair is a critically important one to our (or any) county.  It's concept history stretches back over a 1000 years, and it in many ways is STILL capable of achieving positive social and economic goals.  The Ironwood Chamber is very happy to play a small part, and we very much hope that as evaluation and planning starts toward 2020, that new possibilities for the Fair are not overlooked and that an increased interactive outreach will bring an even better Fair next year!!!