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Health Fusion: How a row of dairy cows and a grand champion chicken changed my life

County fairs are celebrations of animals, crops, crafts, talents, funnel cakes and you-name-it on a stick. But their worth to a community goes way deeper than that. In this week's NewsMD column, "Health Fusion," Viv Williams shares thoughts about the immeasurable value of county fairs.

Viv Williams

When my two boys were little, we got some chickens. One was a super friendly, almost cuddly and rather regal Brahma rooster named Sir Wiglaff. He followed us around like a family dog. We decided that he should be entered into the Olmsted County Fair open class competition.

We knew quite a bit about raising chickens for eggs, but we didn't know a thing about showing them. And the entries had to be in place within a couple of days. We did some quick research and called one of the judges. She was able to usher us through the process, which was expedited in order for us (and Wig -- that's his nickname) to be deemed healthy and fit for competition.

On the morning of the judging, we were incredibly nervous. Most of the other entrants had been obviously bathed and pampered. We just hauled Wig into his comfy crate and drove him to the fairgrounds. He was an underdog.

But when we later saw the purple ribbon and plaque designating him "Grand Champion," all of us nearly passed out. He won! I remember the judge stating clearly, "This is how a rooster is supposed to look."

I wish we could take credit for Wig's appearance, but it was 100% him. We just happened to be lucky enough to be his owners.


In addition to the bling, we also received a check for $2.50, which I have yet to frame. And my husband's screen saver is still to this day a picture of my boys holding that beloved rooster. None of us will ever forget that magical day.

A similar story happened to a Post Bulletin colleague of mine. Not at the Olmsted County Fair, but at the Steele County Fair. Years ago, Randi Kallas entered an embroidered tablecloth in the fine arts open class competition. She had made it as a gift for her brother and sister-in-law.

"I won a blue ribbon and a $2 bill!" says Kallas. "For Christmas that year, I gave them the tablecloth, and the ribbon and $2 bill in a frame. When they downsized and moved four years ago, they asked if I wanted the tablecloth -- they would no longer be using it. I said no, give it to Goodwill. In the mail one day I got a package from them -- the ribbon and the $2 bill!"

The point of my telling these stories is to underscore what I believe to be the immeasurable value of a county fair to its community. Just thinking about our chicken showing experience prompts a flood of positivity for me and my blood pressure drops. So in that sense, it's good for your health. County fairs also offer many learning and leadership experiences for children and adults. Before, during and after the time that Sir Wig was in his cage in the poultry barn, my kids learned so many things about responsibility, sportsmanship, how to talk to adults and how to care for others. I still regret that we did not get them involved in 4-H.

The Fair is also a place where -- in the midst of a society where we can purchase their dinner in a bag and warm it up in the microwave or have it delivered to our door from a stranger's car-- people can be reminded about where their food actually comes from.

My kids still love attending the Olmsted County Fair, and often reminisce about their time there. They were incredibly jealous of our dairy farmer friends who showed their cows and got to sleep overnight in the barn. Those cows, by the way, always left the ring draped with ribbons

A county fair is a place where people and organizations can come together and celebrate their lives, the land and everything that lives on it.

Vivien Williams is a video content producer for NewsMD and the host of "Health Fusion." She can be reached at


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