On an unassuming Monday two weeks ago, summer was humming right along. Then one turn of the calendar page plunged us into the event-filled month known as August.
Simply described, August in Champaign County commences with final preparations for the county fair, fits in a tax-free weekend, offers eight days of fun and contests complete with rosettes and trophies, and ends with most area kids returning to their classrooms. Let me recap…
As July wound down, I was in good shape with my counted cross stitch projects for the county fair. Thousands of tiny X’s stitched into place in the preceding 365 days formed pictures ready for framing.
Alas, I obviously courted certain disaster by finishing my actual sewing two whole weeks ahead of the deadline. Cardboard frame backings did not fit properly, and I had to tape more than one frame into submission. Microscopic stitching imperfections seemed suddenly magnified upon being encased in a frame. And the only picture that slipped into its frame with relative ease had to be completely reframed after the glass cracked in half. What a nightmare!
Unfortunately, I received no prize for my Thomas Jefferson quotation piece. There was also no recognition for the sampler, which I considered my best work, to be donated to the Habitat for Humanity house currently under construction in St. Paris. I was mildly pleased with my third-place white ribbon for the “Down on the Farm” piece.
Amazingly, however, my tulip picture received the first blue ribbon since my distant 4-H days. And there on my holiday picture, the one with the replacement glass, hung another blue ribbon. Way to go, me! By the way, I have already picked out three patterns for next year…
For me, the most outstanding part of this special week every August is the Junior Fair. Prejudiced as I may be, I believe that Champaign County is unmatched in the opportunities available for our kids and their exuberance in pursuing them.
We owe every dedicated advisor a bundle of appreciation for their efforts in 4-H, FFA, and scouting activities. And there are others who have regularly gone above and beyond on behalf of our youth, particularly in the 4-H program.
Sadly, in the last couple of years we have lost some of those extra special individuals. 2017 marked a second county fair without Doug Dill’s presence. Although he retired in 2002 after 30 years as County 4-H Extension Agent, many programs and traditions he put into place remain the backbone of Champaign County 4-H.
Carrie’s Cut-Ups 4-H Club again blossomed with outstanding projects. Carrie Frye, the club’s advisor for 50 years, left us in 2015, but what a legacy. As a top-notch seamstress and Champaign County Master Sewer, Carrie possessed more sewing knowledge and skill than I could ever hope to acquire in a lifetime.
Sally Baker was certainly missed during this year’s fair. Another longtime sewing and quilting advisor, she also put her heart and soul into the Homemaker’s Style Show. Sally’s imagination particularly for costumes was beyond the pale, and year after year she filled the style revue for the county’s adult sewers with her creativity and organization.
My sister spent considerable time under the grandstand checking out my cross-stitch competition and the competitors in her own sewing categories before moving on to the antiques section. She shared with the siblings pictures of the lunchboxes on display. I am still in shock that the metal lunchboxes with thermoses we carried to school are already considered antiques!
The lunchbox collection also reminded me why every Champaign County parent and kid at the fair must keep a close eye on the August calendar: once the fair is over, school is not far behind!
I have never outgrown my love for shopping trips at this time of year. My excitement at having a new box of crayons and a fresh Goldenrod tablet eventually gave way to color-coordinated class folders and grading pens in any color but red. I certainly miss that excuse for the hours and dollars I spent in pursuit of the latest in stationery items.
Fortunately, families these days have the early August tax-free weekend to save some bucks when purchasing lunchboxes and other required school supplies from published lists. Paper products dominate these lists: boxes of Kleenex, rolls of paper towels, and stacks of Post-its along with Ziploc bags and handwipes reflect the needs of today’s students and teachers.
As excited as I was by the fat black pencils I used in the first grade, I would have been over the moon with the markers and colored pencils now required. There were no glue sticks back way when, and the blunt-tipped scissors my sisters and I toted to school in our cigar boxes have been replaced by required Fiskar scissors. In fact, I am surprised by the number of specific brand names included on many modern supply lists. And for sure, my kid self would have had nothing in which to plug the headphones kids must take to school nowadays.
That is how August rolls in Champaign County. Summer traditions fly by before most everyone settles down to follow, in one way or another, a school schedule of some sort. Here is hoping that summer was good to all and that students, teachers, and parents will experience a new school year full of optimism and success!