There is no reason, no reason at all, to suspect that an event called “Celebrating Agriculture” would hold any allure for me. On the surface, it’s not the kind of thing that interests me at all.
But I love it. I really love it. I love it the way Sally Field thinks the Academy loves her.
First off, Fisher River Park is a wonderful venue. It’s big and spread out, not the kind of park that’s all tennis courts and playgrounds. There are plenty of trees and grass and woods so no matter how many people pile in there, it never feels crowded or cramped. It’s outdoorsy in the best possible way.
The folks at County Extension who sponsor the event and put it on with the help of legions of volunteers talk about it being “a great day to come out with your family.” Everybody you talk with uses some variation along those lines. And the folks who show up say the same thing.
Usually, billing something as a “family event” is just code for “we’ve got stuff to sell to both kids and adults.” Not this time.
Pretty much everything is free. I know. How unusual is that? Sure, there’s a plant sale and a farmer’s market and if you want anything at those booths, you have to pay for it, but all the activities and attractions are free. And even though the plants aren’t free, they’re cheap. I would have thought a potted plant grown by a master gardener would be on the spendy side. I mean it stands to reason an individual doesn’t have the economies of scale that agri-business enjoys, but no, they’re selling good-sized plants for a couple of bucks.
Another difference from other so-called family-oriented places is that I have never seen a kid having a meltdown or a hissy fit. Never. Not one. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but I’ve never seen it nor heard it. Imagine getting that many kids in one place and there are no tears. It’s magical.
That’s unlike pricey theme parks which are usually overrun with squalling brats, kicking and screaming over some perceived trauma or other. Make a kid choose between 700 flavors of ice cream and don’t let him have the fancy waffle cone after you’ve paid a hundred bucks or more to get the family inside the gates of that spiffy theme park, and he will go totally postal on you.
But sit him down in front of a fake cow and show him how to milk her, and it’s all smiles. That’s the magic of “Celebrating Ag.” And I’m telling you, it really is magic. I don’t understand it nor can I explain it very well. But I can feel it.
And this year, it got even better. My plan was to spend the first hour covering the event for the paper and after putting my camera and pad away, do a volunteer shift. Last year, I handed out sticks of string cheese to kids who milked Miss Daisy, 4-H’s fake cow. (That’s how I know so much about the unreasonable amount of joy a fake cow can bring to a kid.)
But this year, I got upgraded to a real cow. And I would be dealing with a different excretion. While chatting with Jessi Thomas about Surry Central FFA’s game of Cow Patty Bingo and jotting down some of the details, Jessi asked me if I would judge the contest.
This young lady took one look at me and she knew she was looking at a man who knew his way around some, shall we say, bull crap. Whether it’s bull crap or whether it’s cow crap, it’s all crap. And over the years, I have endured it and I have peddled it, and clearly, she saw that in my eyes. She knew an expert when she saw one.
So a couple of hours later, I was standing in a field waiting for a cow to poop in a square. Never would I have thunk it. When I think of all the things I have done in my life in search of glamour and excitement, all the danger I have put myself into in search of adventure, all the things that cost way too much and ultimately didn’t live up to the hype or expectation, it’s positively amazing how much fun can be had by waiting with a crowd of people for a cow to take a public dump.
My colleague in this adventure, Caroline the Cow, milked her moment in the spotlight for all it was worth. She played the crowd like a Stradivarius and took almost an hour to do her business. When she did “git ’er done,” as they say, Caroline was a total professional, delivering smack dab in the middle of a square, making my job as judge as easy as pie, or rather, patty.
I had expected to have a good time at Celebrate Ag. I always do. What I hadn’t expected was to gain a new marketable skill to add to my resume. It’s official. I’m now an expert judge of bull crap. Or cow crap. Same thing, and that’s my expert opinion.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.