Here we are in the thick of another Franklin County Fair – the annual homage to what remains of this community’s agricultural heritage – and, like clockwork, some of the summer’s most miserable weather is upon us. Somebody ought to look into scheduling this venerable event for a time when the meteorological odds are a little more favorable.
The middle of July more often than not is hot and sticky. Sometimes it’s more or less bearable, other times we’re warned to take refuge in air-conditioned rooms. Precipitation can be abundant, as it was last summer, or the earth may crack from inadequate rainfall, as it has this spring and summer. The State Journal’s Lauren Hallow reported last week that both exhibitors and fair organizers are feeling the adverse effects of heat and drought. One grower, Kenneth Driskoll, told her he’s scratched up pitifully few entries for the vegetable contests. His wife, Jane, is heartsick over the shriveled state of flowers she’d normally enter.
We’re finally seeing a bit of rain, albeit too late for many crops. But the oppressive heat’s back on, at least until the weekend, when the fair concludes. The temperatures are somewhat lower than the triple-digit readings recorded in late June and early July, but suffocating humidity makes it just as uncomfortable, if not worse. As welcome as the rains may be to the agricultural community, they don’t help the midway crowd. Still, who could wish the showers away when most of the nation finds itself enduring the worst dry spell in decades?
Capital Expo, Frankfort’s other big event of the spring-summer season, was a little more fortunate. Sunshine abounded and the heat was above average for mid-June, though not exceptionally so. Many years Expo patrons have either roasted on the Capital Plaza’s concrete deck or had to hoist umbrellas under cloudbursts that June humidity can churn up with little warning.
Good weather is never guaranteed, of course, but some event planners figured out a long time ago that conditions by and large were more pleasant at other times of the year. Two or three months from now, fall festival season will be in full swing. After a long, hot summer, most of us will welcome a little nip in the air. October is one of our favorite times. It’s statistically the driest month of the year in Kentucky, the blue skies serving as the perfect backdrop for brilliant autumn foliage.
Granted, there would be some complications to re-branding the county fair as a fall harvest fair. School children are back in class by then, with limited opportunities to spend their afternoons and evenings exploring the fairgrounds. The school year was founded on agricultural traditions that had farmers’ sons and daughters performing field work during the summer months. However, that custom encompasses smaller numbers nowadays and school systems are gravitating toward year-round calendars. Classes begin in early August and the Franklin County system has a fall break scheduled for Oct. 8-12.
You can’t rule out an autumnal cold snap, but how much worse could it be than the July heat and humidity? While there might be less to show in the way of summer squash and lilies, fall exhibitors should produce an abundance of pumpkins and chrysanthemums if the rain gods cooperate. And those fair queen contestants would be just as pretty in fall colors.
Maybe it’s time to think outside the box – and get out of the hot box at fair time.