In the fall of 2018 — not quite three years ago — I was invited to join a committee planning a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Crawford County Fair.
At that point, the anniversary was two years away and I remembered thinking as the plans were discussed, "I can't believe I'm at a meeting planning something that's not going to happen for two years."
Phyllis Carr, the chairperson for the committee, though had things very well organized to start. The committee had met a couple of times before I joined.
It seemed like a really ambitious project and I should have realized that nothing this big happens overnight. I should have realized it because I know that in routine years the planning for the next year's fair starts the day after the fair closes each year.
There are a lot of decisions to be made and it all takes a lot of coordination to come together.
I attended quite a few meetings and then the COVID pandemic hit and the future of the 75th fair was uncertain.
Committee members continued to meet in Zoom without me — I haven't quite figured out how Zoom worked yet. (I did figure it out eventually.)
Phyllis is one of those really organized persons who checks and double checks every detail. She also listened to every bit of feedback — and was very gracious about thanking everyone, not just for their words but also their feedback and interest in the celebration.
We had discussed in length a huge parade to open the fair — similar to that done in the 50th anniversary.
The subcommittee for the parade did a wonderful job with the plans which were taken to the committee for approval.
And the planning went on.
Then everything went on hold while it seemed the world took a break from everything because of the pandemic and what would happen.
Of course, the celebration was postponed until this year, but Phyllis didn't give up, nor did the committee.
They simply altered the plans as much as they could and waited for the word that the fair would occur in 2021.
Because of the late start though, the parade had to be canceled — another victim of the pandemic and uncertain future.
While there is no parade, the enthusiasm among the committee remains strong because Phyllis kept the spirits up with her upbeat attitude. She never seemed too discouraged about changes in plans and things being considered.
Instead, she focused on the positive aspects of the fair — the families being able to spend time together, some traditions continuing, some amazing volunteers thanked and other amazing people honored.
Because Phyllis chose to be positive, the plans came together, because people responded to her leadership, she knew the interests and skills of each committee member and used that knowledge and her skills at encouraging people to generate the enthusiasm and hard work form the committee members.
We laughed a lot at some of the meetings, teasing Ellen Aurand at her amazing ability to sell bricks for the pathway a the history building to almost everyone she met. It was a successful campaign designed to fund the 75th anniversary and it did.
In 1946, the fair opened with with no big headliner act. It focused on agriculture and the farm — and related things like farm machinery, etc.
There were rides for the kids that first year, and some hometown entertainment.
The focus though was on agriculture — which was the purpose of the fair. It continues to be the purpose — to raise awareness and how important agriculture is because without the farmers, there would be no food.
For a number of reasons, I didn't do as much as others members of the committee, but I'm still glad I was a member of the group, just as I was for the 50th anniversary.
I had known Phyllis before — and it was fun laughing with her about silly things, including her husband Ken's role as Diamond Jim to promote the fair.
It also was fun getting to know others better and making new friends and sharing their sense of humor.
The fair is really all about farms, but it's also about family and friends.
We didn't have "make friends" on the list of things we planned for the 75th anniversary.
Somehow though that happened because Phyllis made sure everyone was included and the meetings always focused on what we could do and not dwelling on the things we couldn't change.
Today marks the beginning of the celebration for which plans started three years ago.
Some things changed — others remain the same.
It's Crawford County Fair Week — time to focus on farms, friends and family, food and fun — and enjoying the fruits of everyone's labor.
I hope when it's over people have good memories of celebrating 75 years of tradition.
Jean Shanley is retired from The Meadville Tribune where she was communities and society editor.