For most people, the words “state fair” bring images of flashing lights and towering Farris wheels, as well as the aromas of roasted corn and your favorite fried food. For rural communities though, it has always been the opportunity to celebrate our lifestyle and to showcase the crafts which make us unique. The crafts of our rural communities range from livestock, crops, canning or quilt making. The state fair serves as a time to celebrate our heritage and preserve the many traditions our state was built on. These traditions are handed down through time and give us a sense of pride. I have many fond memories sitting on the porch of the milk barn listening to my grandfather, Pop, talk about how his mother would rent a truck with the little money they had to make sure he was able to get to Nashville to show their prized Jersey heifer. Or overhearing a group of ladies brag about bringing home a blue ribbon with their caramel pie and canned green beans. That pride still exists in homes of many rural people across the Volunteer State.
Today, the state fair means more for people than it did then, providing them the experience and fun our state has to offer. It grants the agriculture community a great opportunity to show the public where and how their food is raised. For the majority of Tennessee, harvesting food is simply grabbing a can of vegetables or picking out the most appealing steak. A state fair brings farm life off the gravel roads and out of the small communities to big cities and allows us to share our story.
My grandfather, Pa Pa Albright, had a passion for educating the public about the dairy industry. He was charged with running the milking demonstration every morning and night at the state fair. This responsibility has been handed down through the generations. My nephews are the fourth generation to have operated the nightly milking program. This family tradition has allowed us to educate tens of thousands about the dairy industry and how we care for our cattle.
As a new plan for the Tennessee State Fair begins to take shape, I look forward to a fresh look and avenue in which we as farmers can celebrate the great traditions of our past, while also educating the people we feed about the passion we hold dear of growing their food and fiber across the great State of Tennessee. Though the fair may move to a new location, the heritage and celebration may live on to honor state.
Written by: Julie Giles, Marshall County
About Julie: Executive Director of the Farm Animal Care Coalition of Tennessee and YF&R State Committee, but more so – mom of two girls, wife of Doug and caretaker of a cow/calf operation in Marshall County.