“Mom, you’re in your fair mode,” accused my daughter a few days ago as I reminded our 4-H dairy lease kids that they would need proper white show pants.
    I did not realize I had a fair mode.
    I suppose, though, after 15 or so years of preparing kids and animals for shows, helping with projects, taking on volunteer duties and the five days of fun that is the Nicollet County Fair, I am not unlike any parent of fair-loving kids. I probably do have a fair mode.
    But this year, there are few fairs as we normally know them in Minnesota. Most counties will hold no fair at all. Some counties have virtual livestock shows and some are running in-person shows at their fairgrounds. Our fair is holding several days of separate 4-H livestock shows on the fairgrounds.
    This summer, we have three 4-Hers leasing heifers for our county show and one leasing a heifer for a virtual show in another county. And, the shows are this week. Preparations are happening.
    The young ladies who have been working with their heifers from our farm have put so much effort into their projects. Their heifers are leading well, are washed often and soon will be showring ready. Our kids have been giving them a lot of leading help and showing pointers, Mike is diligent about keeping their pen well bedded, and I was even able to assist a little bit with clipping this year. It was fun, although when Opal stepped squarely on my foot, I remembered why it is frustrating at times.
    When our kids got bigger, more responsible and gained experience, they really did not need us to help with much of the animal prep. (OK. They know 100 percent more about clipping and fitting finessing than we ever did.) However, supervising the fair cattle barn set up, clean up and materials hauling for the Annexstad string of 15-20 head of cattle fell onto Rolf’s shoulders through the years. In the last few years, the boys took on much more. Emily has filled the role as a superior organizer of cattle showing tasks of all kinds, from display showcasing to a cattle watching schedule.
    4-H shows ended in 2019 for Leif and Matthias. The boys might have shown a few head  in FFA/open class in 2020 if the fair had been held. This year would have been much different no matter what.
    Now we are preparing for the experience of a smaller show, with front gate check in/temperature taker, water hydrant sanitizer and parking organizer as volunteer jobs. The livestock barns are not being used. Kids will prep animals at their trailers with only parents or immediate family present. The show is in the outside ring.
    They will show with 4-H friends from both Nicollet and Blue Earth counties. They will hold onto a small part of something normal when life does not seem predictable or fair at this time.
    In my fair mode, I have been reminiscing about why the fair is such an integral part of the summer. During our first years of farming at Annexstad Dairy, Rolf and I went into the fairgrounds to watch the dairy show, look around at exhibits; and, maybe we returned to talk with friends in the barns after evening milking and to grab a pork chop supper and a malt at the MDA building. Memories include several years of helping to run shifts at the MDA building, volunteering with open class exhibits and Farm Bureau booth duty.
    Lois, Rolf’s mom, served on the fair board for at least 20 years. I remember receiving phone calls in the barn about the talent show, which Lois headed up. She was already at the fair preparing for open class entry day, but the home/barn phone number was listed as where to call with questions.
    “My daughter decided to dance to the song, ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,’” said the caller. “Can you add her to the program?”
    Imagine in the days before digital everything, trying to get that all correct while cradling the phone in the crook of my neck, taking down the message at the barn desk, with cows bellering in the background. I wonder what the caller thought.
    Every year at fair time, I listen to a song I love. It is by Minnesota singer/songwriter Peter Mayer on “Earth Town Square.” The sentiments express why to hope that fairs of all kinds can resume in 2021:
    “There is music on CDs, magazines of all kinds, and computers and TVs for amusing the mind. But in the late days of summer, nothing nearly compares to just seeing each other at the Brown County Fair.
    “There’s a light inside of people. Sometimes seen in the eyes. And it hides like a recluse, in these complicated times. But some say it shines out more frequently there. And for just five bucks, you can find out at the Brown County Fair.”
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.