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Women in Ag: We Have a Barn

My heart will forever hold precious memories of this past weekend. We had the tremendous opportunity to not only see our new cattle barn at the fair but also to see our daughter and nephew’s house and show their calves there, as well. I have struggled to find the words to express my gratitude for our community’s generosity and my extreme awe and pride in its efforts. Walking into a brand-new barn full of cattle, children, and smiling and thankful parents was truthfully, very overwhelming, and I know I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. Looking around at beautiful cattle filling the stalls, expertly placed decorations by each 4-H and FFA group, and children playing in the aisles, was magical. Students were catching up from the summer and their parents were trying to corral them for chores. Looking up at a wall full of plaques acknowledging our sponsors as well as down the rows of stalls for many more plaques was almost too much. This magical moment was no longer a dream but a definitive reality and one that we will hopefully relive for as long as most of us will live.

Last year, two weeks before the fair — after a lot of heartache, grief, anger, and concern — the old barn was torn down due to safety and financial reasons. A handful of us stood up and made a promise to the children, the fair board, and the community that we’d get the money and have a new barn standing for this year’s fair. A promise made is a promise kept, and while we dug around, sent out mailer upon mailer, made phone calls and visits to businesses, that promise kept us motivated and true to the path.

In January, the plans and engineering were completed and submitted to the state for approval. In April/May the engineering was found to be incorrect, and we had to resubmit revised plans. In June, the groundwork started, stopped, and started again. The month of July brought about the actual construction process, which, of course, seemed to take forever. The finish work was started at the end of July and into early August.  

On August 25, 2016, the first animals to spend the weekend at the Marinette County Fair were walked into the barn to their assigned stalls, and a young family with a history of showing at the fair began to make its 2016 fair memories. I hope that someday that little guy will be reminded of how incredibly special that day was — not just for him but for a community who undeniably threw themselves into action with everything they had to make this possible. I know that his parents will, without a doubt, make sure it’s a memory never to be forgotten!

While I had been to visit the progress of the barn a few times as the work was completed, I have struggled with the words to explain how it felt walking into that building for the first time for the fair. I didn’t even grow up showing at this fair. My daughter was working with her first calf when I became involved in the process of helping this happen. However, it was the huge emotional tie that our community had to a building they used only four to five days of the year that made it poignant to me. My in-laws spent some early days of their budding relationship under the roof of the original barn. An aunt recently found pictures of my husband’s grandfather as a kid showing his cattle under that same roof! A year ago, it was nothing to hear, off in a corner, the discussions and memories that every family had of the fair and particularly that simple barn. The history of the cattle barn ran deep and wide in our county.

When it became obvious that something needed to be done with the old structure, we jumped in feet first, and we did it for the kids. Now that it’s completed and the fair is over, I realize that we did it for the parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, as well. We did it for the dairy farmer down the road who has his own quiet memories of a childhood spent in that barn, or the family who is still young in the show ring but striving to be the best that they can be. This barn serves as a reminder to us all that we are a community full of love, support, and commitment to one another.

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