As I waited in line for my turn to enter the State Fair parade last Thursday, the Red Gold Tomato a few spots ahead and a go-kart following behind, I took a deep breath in—and immediately regretted it. The undeniable scent of food vendors deep frying from sun-up to sun-down mingling with the odors of trash, pork and lemon shake-ups wafted over to me. After instantaneously losing my appetite, I drove the Conner Prairie van through the parade … and it was the enthusiasm I heard from the fairgoers upon seeing the CP van that reminded again why I volunteer to do things like this.
“Ooo, I love Conner Prairie!”
“We just went there and saw the potter!”
“We should get back up there...”
“Mom, it’s Conner Prairie! Can we go?”
Here’s the thing: I can talk about how great Conner Prairie is as much as I want, and we can advertise and give you coupons and sing and dance to get you to come here. But really, we know it comes down to the person. You—our supporters and guests—provide community-wide enthusiasm that we couldn’t buy. When you and your kids get excited to see our van at the State Fair—that’s when we’ve done our job.
It’s all the kids who come to pet the animals at the Animal Encounters Barn, all the aspiring artists who marvel at the blacksmith and potter, all the adults who take their first balloon flight in 1859 Balloon Voyage (me, too). So thank you, fairgoers, for cheering on the Conner Prairie van. You made the smell of the Dairy Bar topped off with the Swine Barn (almost) bearable for me!