Oakland County Fair Mixes Farming and Family Fun
(Elizabeth Schanz, July 15, 2022)
Davisburg, MI- A barn at the Oakland County Fair in Davisburg, Michigan bustles with excitement as noise echoes through the longstanding barns and open fields. Goat bleats add to the conversations of the people who talk with one another about the events of the day, their animals, and themselves. The judge for the goat showing competition adds another, most listened to, layer in the atmosphere as they announce the winners for each category of the competition.
One of the youngest competitors, Carly Bessolo, age eight, sports a white button down, two French braids, and brown boots, standing with her three month-old goat Clover who she has helped raise since the goat’s birth. Young Bessolo waits patiently to compete in the goat showing for her the first time ever at the Oakland County Fair, an event her mother, Brenda Bessolo has been showing at since 1998.
Oakland County Fair is a culmination of competitions, community, and carnival rides. This year over 500 exhibitors took part in the different competitions. This gives individuals the opportunity to present various projects such as goats, poultry, rabbits, and horses through showings, riding competitions, and other creative projects.
The fair allows space for younger generations to get involved in the process of raising, grooming, and preparing for these events, which many hope will inspire both participants and spectators to become involved and appreciate agriculture.
The general manager at the Oakland County Fair L.C. Scramlin, who has been involved with the planning of the fair for the past 34 years, emphasized the fair’s goal to showcase the young people’s project and instill important life skills.
“It’s a chance for the community to remember that agriculture is still the backbone of this country,” said Scramlin, “Everybody eats three meals a day and it doesn’t really come from Kroger or Meijer, even though they’re wonderful institutions, but they need farmers behind that to produce food. These kids are learning that first hand.”
The fair has been going on in the community since 1880 as an annual event up until World War II in 1940 where it took a five year hiatus and resumed in 1945. However, the fair was almost put on hold once again with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the fair was able to simplify the event in order to allow individuals to continue to show off their work.
Oakland County wanted to continue to hold events, even though they may have looked different from other years. During 2020, when many other counties completely halted their fairs, the Oakland County Fair had an online auction, a social distanced animal showing without an audience, and did outside showings. This allowed people and especially kids to still be involved with the event.
With the event back to its full capacity families are able to come together and present what they have been working on. Jessica Moore, who has a farm called Forevermore Farm in Holly, MI, has three children who presented projects at the fair this year. Moore stated that these fairs help to introduce the amount of effort it takes that goes into farming and help kids learn that hard work is necessary. For many kids, these projects mean taking charge and preparing their animals throughout the entire year for these events
Moore said, “For them [the kids] with the chickens at least, they [the kids] spend a lot of time working with them [the chickens], socializing them, getting them used to being handled. Leading up to the fair, the week off, they give them baths and all that good stuff with chickens.”
One of the most rewarding parts for Moore is watching the outcome of her kids’ preparation and seeing the joy that it brings them. One of her youngest, seven year-old Bailey Moore won first place for her eggs, and was thrilled by her win. Many of her friends burst with support going up to her to celebrate, an embrace from her mom while looking at her blue ribbon, and holding her chicken, which young Moore says is her favorite part.
The fair not only allows for competition and lessons but also fosters relationships that continue to draw people back to this community. Bessolo notes that even though some participants may not see each other for a whole year there is a lasting connection that the fair makes.
“There’s fair family here,” said Bessolo, “Everyone comes together so nicely at this fair. I’ve been to other fairs in this county, but at this fair in particular everyone roots for each other. The best memories that you can make is showing at the fair, especially at the Oakland County Fair.”
Oakland County Fair is not limited to those who have already been a part of these events and Scramlin emphasizes that he thinks all people will have something for them between the many exhibits, shows, and rides. The Oakland County Fair aims to engage all members of the community to participate in new activities that interest them.
Additional ways to get involved in not only the fair, but wider community is to be involved with many different clubs that help with an array of projects. Some of these include such as the Oakland County Farm Club, livestock club, poultry club, general clubs such as sewing or computer work, and Proud Equestrian a club that helps special need kids ride horses. To get more information people can contact the 4H office Michigan State Extension, that works with the Oakland County Fair, to receive more information.
More info: https://www.oakfair.org