Greg Bassett: Looking forward to the County Fair

Jim Barrett, the car dealer, civic leader, and all-around good guy from Berlin, used to have a matrix for what makes a county great.

“It’s simple,” he told me years ago for a newspaper story I was writing. “To be a great county, you need a hospital, an airport, an industrial park and a county fair.”

Worcester, where Barrett served for decades as a County Commissioner, eventually got its hospital, found a way to share two airports, made a run at an industrial park and has one of the niftiest county fairs to be found anywhere.

Here in Wicomico, our county fair has seemed to wane a bit in popularity. In this era of marketing finesse and social networking, the Wicomico Farm and Home Show was hurt a bit by its clunky name. It’s the county fair, after all.

A lot of supremely dedicated people have worked very hard to keep the annual event vital. Inevitable changes in our society — combined perhaps with the retreat of agriculture as a primary community influencer — has worked against the event and made their jobs harder.

Further evidence can be seen in the Delmarva Poultry Industry’s decision last year to end its annual chicken festival. Even though more chickens than ever are being grown on Delmarva, the cultural need to gather and feast that fact has dissipated.

Thankfully, there’s an effort this year to flip things back to their correct statuses. With partnership help from the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wicomico Farm and Home Show organizers have worked to rally all of the various entities needed execute an undertaking as major as a county fair.

The remnants of DPI’s chicken festival will be combined with the longtime Farm and Home Show to create the 2015 Wicomico County Fair.

Combining elements from both events is a great answer: It will promote agriculture in Wicomico County and more specifically, the poultry industry.

By developing the partnership, the groups are able to continue longstanding traditions that have a combined 143-year history.

And all that is well and good, and smart and proactive, but fairs are supposed to be FUN.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m excited about all of this. Every great county needs a great county fair.

And a FUN fair.

Not only will 79 years of tradition continue, it will get better.

The venue for all this marketing, promotion, feasting and fun will be Winterplace Park; the dates are Aug. 14–16.

The Salisbury Lions will be there cooking their famous fried chicken, but that’s not the only reason I’ll be there.

To be a great county, we need a great county fair — and we’re well on our way to having one for decades to come.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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