NOTE: This guest blog post was written by Nick Hunter, one of our summer interns with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks!. Hunter is starting his senior year at Grinnell College, double majoring in Physics and Spanish.
I’m a pretty big fan of the Iowa State Fair. Mostly for the fried pickles and other greasy goodness, but also for the eclectic crowd that gives the fairgrounds such a unique atmosphere. As a Des Moines native, it’s the only fair I had ever known until I started going to county fairs this summer with our fleet of Conservation Station trailers. I had been accustomed to the crowded and epic fried food mecca that is the Iowa State Fair. County fairs were going to be something mighty different.
For the most part, they’ve been much less crowded and mostly attended by rural Iowans. Honestly, at first I didn’t think we would be able to meet with a very significant amount of people, and sometimes we don’t. Many kids often bolt away right in the middle of a conversation to show their chickens or hogs at the 4-H events. Yet, no matter how small the fair, there always seems to be groups of fair-goers – families, groups of kids, seniors – who sincerely enjoy doing the activities at our Conservation Station.
Recently at the Central Iowa Fair in Marshalltown, a young girl came to watch the Enviroscape watershed activity. When it finished, she entered the trailer’s learning lab, we talked through the module, and went outside to play the poo toss activity. She absolutely loved that game. She came back all afternoon to play and when it was time to leave she insisted in helping us pack up.
When we finished, she brought us over to her chicken coop to see the chickens she had shown earlier that day for 4-H. She opened the cage, yanked out her prized chicken, and shoved her into my arms before I could object. It wasn’t exactly one of the most monumental moments in my life, holding live poultry in my arms, but it certainly was the first time I had held a chicken and for that I was proud.
I could tell that our young friend really enjoyed the presence of the Conservation Station at her fair. I also noticed the appreciation in almost every visit from the group of summer school kids that were bussed in to the fair that afternoon. By the end of the day, 110 kids and 20 adults had actively participated in our activities and had learned all about pollution, water quality, and conservation — a pretty successful day. Plus, I even held a chicken.