Who needs reunions?

Published 7:59 am Saturday, August 13, 2016

While I was covering the fair on Thursday night, I was struck by the comments of two people that I interviewed for my write-up.

Taylor Rountree stated that the fair was “like a reunion” and Walter Young, a fair board member, reminded me that “the fair was about involving our young people” in agriculture.

These two statements perfectly encapsulated my experience of the fair.

In the two short years since I’ve graduated high school — though it feels like that was an eternity ago — the fair has been much more effective a venue for me to catch up with high school friends than any other reunion could be.

It seems like every time I round a corner at the fair, I’m caught up in hugs and rushed greetings. How-are-you’s and great-to-see-you’s are exchanged. We catch up, we assure each other we’ll keep in touch, and then we don’t see each other again until next year’s fair.

It’s a better homecoming than the high school’s homecoming game.

The fair also guarantees me that no matter how old I get, there will be some part of my childhood that will always remain preserved in Southampton County.

The same rides with their flashing lights and their whip-fast turns will pop up alongside the midway every year. The petting zoo will always be crawling with goats and the occasional llama. The 4-H show will always be oppressively hot and permeate the entire fairgrounds with the smell of manure. The food vendors will always sell me the same over-priced — but worth every penny — funnel cake. And the line for the bright red beer truck will always be a mile long.

Most importantly, the horticulture exhibition, the craft show and the vendors will always calls attention to how important agriculture and local businesses are to the well-being of my hometown.

Every year, looking at the enormous pumpkins and the dried corn stalks at the horticulture exhibit, and the hand-sewn quilts and carefully crafted art pieces at the craft show, I am reminded that the roots of Southampton County are planted firmly in agriculture.

No matter how industrialized or automated the world may become, we will always mark the seasons — and the economy — by the growth cycle. Soybeans and corn sprout in the summer, cotton harvested and peanuts dug in the fall.

The fair serves as the best celebration of our agricultural heritage and an excellent opportunity to reconnect with our high school crowd.

Hot or rainy may it be, like the sun rising in the east, it can always be relied on to remind us of our roots and to give us the opportunity to visit with long-lost friends.

Walter Francis Jr. is a student at American University and is serving as a staff writer for The Tidewater News this summer. Email him at walter.francis@tidewaternews.com.