Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 4, 2013

SHADES OF GREEEN: What can we do to make the fair sustainable into the future?


— I went to the fair four times.

I sold tickets on the first day to help out the Chandler Family Staff Organization.

I rode the Freak Out on Kids Day.

I hung out at the Merry Lea booth at the Green Earth Education Day on Friday. My grad students were surveying fairgoers on their environmental literacy and comparing it to the national average they read about in the article titled “Environmental Literacy in America: What 10 Years of NEETF/Roper Research and Related Studies Say about Environmental Literacy in the U.S.”

We have discovered that the Elkhart County fairgoer has a higher score than the national average!

On Saturday I talked with people at the Young McDonald Farm about Hens for Goshen and the idea of changing the animal ordinance in the city to allow six hens in our backyard.

I attended the demolition derby with some friends who waited five hours in the grandstand reserving our seats. They love to watch and experience the craziness!

I ate a lime cone, a raspberry cone and a custard cone.

I was/am amazed at the love shown through more than $1 million given to the 4-Hers for their care of their animals.

My son is part of the Kind Clovers and won a red ribbon for his miscellaneous craft.

But using the eyes of the columnist of the Shades of Green I was dismayed by the vast amount of trash, the limited recycling, the enormity of smoke billowing and the lack of thinking of its mission in certain arenas.

According to it’s 4-H Facebook page, the mission states: “The Elkhart County 4-H Fair and its facilities were established, expanded and are to be maintained to enhance and encourage family and youth programs that promote the principles expressed in the 4-H Creed: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.

“Year-round activity, economic development, and increased community involvement are the base for continued pursuit of our purposes and ideals.

“Through participation in programs of leadership, education, agriculture, citizenship, character development and entertainment we will work to enrich the quality of life for family and community.”

Amen! And I see all of that!

And then the volunteer spirit, which is tremendous, must be encouraged in all ways to continue the traditions, pride and achievements of the fair. Three thousand volunteers!!!

My wife volunteered six days taking tickets for her Delta Theta Tau.

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair is one of the largest 4-H county fairs in the nation, attracting more than 250,000 people over the nine-day event. The fair board’s goal is not only to be a big event, but to be one of the best. The fair takes pride in preserving quality family entertainment, free grandstand shows, positive competitions and terrific “fair food.’”

As Goshen-ite I love the past. I grew up at the 4-H Fair flirting with other teens, watching Chuck Berry, and getting free yard sticks. I reminisce of the days of cruising, the celebration of the combustion engine

What can be done to meet the best of the future with memories of the past?

I think it’s fantastic that there is going to be a bike lane in the very near future because going home the other night I saw maybe 50 people walking home along Fish Lake Road, which at nighttime can be quite dangerous. So with that pathway alternatives to the car and truck will be much more feasible.

We can offer much more recycling, which we have some receptacles, and composting, which have none. Looking through the trash, which my sons think is pretty gross, it is difficult for me not to show my displeasure with a plethora of bottles.

And how do we address limitations on the amount of trash created? I searched all day Friday trying to find the weight without avail. But if you looked in the trash cans you knew there was half the landfill produced in a nine day period!

How about some volunteers to make sure there are recycling containers right next to every waste receptacle? And helping the fairgoers understand this citizenry skill of taking care of what is given us?

Say no to Styrofoam or at least try to recycle it. Oil is finite and a resource that Styrofoam is created out of that takes a lot of energy to acquire. Why not utilze things that can grow annually? Cups and plates now are made out of sugar cane refuse — yes higher cost but …

Fresh local food. I know on Thursday they tried to promote a 4-H Fair Farmers Market where vendors from the Goshen Farmers Market came to sell to the thousands that were at the fair. Very, very, very little was sold.

A friend of mine on Wednesday had a dish of fried pickles, an elephant ear and then to top it all a big plate of fresh fried potato chips,

She threw up that night. Too much grease. Body doesn’t like that.

I loved Ricky’s Taco there with fresh veggies on their steak tacos!

How great it would be to get something other than deep fat fried or that has high fructose corn syrup in it, which is very difficult currently.

The lights of the Midway were bright and beautiful. That’s why I love the Ferris wheel at night! But it dims in my eyes when I think of how it is produced. How about utilizing solar in the newly acquired acreage?

The vision of the 4-H Global Strategy is “A sustainable and innovative global 4-H network will empower youth to reach their full potential.”

And it’s fourth objective is to “Establish and share principles and best practices that ensure quality, accountability and sustainability for global 4-H programs.”

I’m not sure if the term is for fiscal or environmental sustainability, but both must be embraced and we must strive for regeneration instead of just sustainability — thinking about the process of renewal, restoration, and growth, which promotes resilience — even at our local county fair.

Let’s make a fair that has everything that everyone loves, plus a fair that strives for being the best in all realms so we can swear that my great-, great-, great-, great-, great-grandchildren have a 4-H fair that they can flirt with the other teens, ride the Freak Out and get that free yard stick!