Baked goods, vegetables, fruits, handmade crafts and paintings have been constant Grange Fair exhibitor attractions, and the Smith family has seen them all for five generations.
Tawna Smith, who helps coordinate horticulture exhibitors, is a fourth-generation Grange Fair committee member. Her son Nick, 13, is too young to be on the committee, though he does help a little in between hanging out with friends.
Tawna’s mother, Virginia Letterman, had it more difficult as she grew up.
“I wasn’t allowed to go to the fair unless I worked,” Letterman said. “My mother was in the horticulture building in the late ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and she retired in the ’90s. I got involved and started working for my mother in the ’60s. We entered exhibitors, and I went around with judges and put ribbons on and I just keep coming back.”
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Smith had it a little easier than her mom.
“She would be a runner for me,” said Letterman, who is helping coordinate handcraft exhibitors this year. “Both of my daughters would be involved. She helped us place exhibitors, and she helped the judges place ribbons on prize winners like I did. But she didn’t have to work all the time.”
Letterman’s grandfather, G.E. Ardery, began the family tradition as a fair board member in the 1940s. Since then it has changed in some ways.
“We don’t have as many cakes and pies as we used to,” Letterman said. “There seemed to be people making more of their own clothing and entering it, too. Today, there aren’t as much people that are sewing. There’s more people doing their own knitting, and we have more quilts in the building, more handicrafts, especially children’s handicrafts.”
Technology has also made coordinating exhibitors easier.
“We wrote out so many tags for exhibitors, and now it’s all on computer,” Smith said. “We used to have to write everything. One of my jobs was to tape the tags on for exhibitors and make sure they were all in order. I was a gopher for my mom and did whatever she wanted me to do. Things have progressed, so this job isn’t as time-consuming today.”
The family has seen every exhibitor over the course of 70 years, and they’ll see something new this year. Wine exhibitors will return after being absent since at least the 1800s.
“I’m not sure how many wine exhibitors we’ll have this year, but hopefully next year it will just continue to grow,” Smith said. “A lot of people are excited, and they’ll talk about how many amateur wine makers there are. I hope they’re as successful as our other exhibitors.”