As a follow up to the May issue of the “Knightro Report”, I was asked to speak at the Burke County Fair in northwestern North Dakota, accompanied by the popular Country Sunshine Band from Powers Lake, ND.
The following message is a synopsis of the Sunday morning revival that was delivered to an over ow crowd near the grandstand. The grandstand that I remembered as a kid no longer exists. It, along with many of the other buildings that used to be on the grounds have either been torn down or replaced by less memorable structures. Such is the state of the fair, as compared to its glory days. I wanted to break into song, singing glory glory hallelujah to the good ol’ days.
As, if I’ve ever stood on hallowed ground, it’s the fairgrounds of the Burke County Fair. Nothing has impacted my life more than the Burke County Fair. It is here that the foundation of my life was built, and sustains me to this day. If this doesn’t meet the de nition of hallowed: to respect or honor greatly; revere—then I’ve somehow missed the whole point of my passion for this fair and my religious convictions—summed up in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just as the focus of “Knightro” is that of livestock market planning, I wanted to emphasize the importance of planning if the county fairs are ever going to revive themselves back to what they once were. But plans in and of themselves are worthless, it’s the planning that becomes valuable and brings people together like that of the county fairs we still remember.
Like any plan it should be part of a bigger plan. God has a plan for each of us that may or not be inclusive of the County Fair. But one thing is for certain, if the road you’re on is rough and full of chuck holes maybe you’re on the wrong road. Maybe we haven’t listened to the higher power, and we’ve drifted off course entirely, without any kind of a plan. Without a plan, for either our personal lives, or that of the fair, it becomes one of emptiness—or worse yet, one of nothingness!
That’s the challenge for all of us here today—what is it that we want to have happen? Do we reach out to one another? Do we make it a labor of love? Do we reach out in prayer for those answers?
It’s hard to imagine a revival of the fair without those who served it so well for so long. They probably couldn’t have imagined the fair without them in it either–but God couldn’t imagine heaven without them in it. So they’ve gone on to serve in a higher capacity, and are probably smiling down on what they’re seeing happen here today.
I know that my mom and dad are dancing with the stars this morning, as are those friends and family that have joined them. Where the spirit is alive and well, there is no death!
When I think of them, I’m reminded of so many memories—if I had a nickel for every time I rode around this track, or a dollar for every time my mother couldn’t nd me, or ve dollars for every time she couldn’t nd my dad­—I might have ended up rich. Well, I didn’t end up rich, but richer for having had the experience of the Burke County Fair.
If the county fair can take the sting out of death, think about what it can do for the living. Just as there is no sunrise without a sunset, there is no life without death, and there is no success without failure. So let us not put a limit on anything regarding the rebuilding of the county fair–for the more you dream about it, the closer it will come to becoming reality.
We all know how hard it is to make something grow in this part of the country; be it a crop or a county fair. But what does grow here seems more special because it is! It’s kind of like seeing a plant sprout and grow out of the crevasse of a rock. The only reason that plant sprouts and survives is because generations of seeds have landed and died in that crevasse. It spouts, then dies, leaving a bit of organic matter for the next seed, which lives a little longer, and so on until untold generations of plants have expanded and enriched the crevasse enough to give the plant a running start; like that of getting a running start at the horse races here–before the inception of starting gates.
Like that plant growing in the crevasse of a rock, our own lives are so dependent upon those generations of family that passed before us; reminding us that all life no matter how humble or brief has meaning when it makes this county fair a better place for generations to come.
God Has A Plan!
And when we respectively pause to honor and remember those that dedicated their life to a cause greater than that of themselves, we are reminded of how special this fair once was.  
The fair was the re ection of respect. Respect for one another and all of that for which we proudly put on display for all to see.
The fair was the de nition of caring. Caring for one another and the vitality of our community. The fair was the revelation of understanding. Understanding that it wasn’t just about me. It was about a cause far greater than that of ourselves.
The fair was the perfection of relationships, knowing that by ourselves we accomplish nothing, but together we become everything for which this community stands.
The Fair Was All Of The Above
The fair was more about its people than it was the sideshows. Remember Bruce Bair and the run-away ostrich, or being reprimanded by Hank, Hans and Chris. For many of you the list just goes on and on, but for those that are no longer with us—their memories are so much a part of the past.
Like that of participating in front of the grandstand, riding a camel, playing in Mr. Engers high school band, or marching in the parade of champions—your memories are so much a part of the past.
Or perhaps like me, to have learned most of life’s lessons right here at the fairgrounds, it is humbling to know from whence we came. Our time on earth is limited, so obviously, we don’t want to waste it living someone else’s life—but it is good to remember those who dedicated their lives to this fair.
If we forget those who came before us or where we came from, it doesn’t really matter where we’re going. Tell me who a man respects and who he walks with and I’ll tell you what he stands for. The county fair produced a lot of those kinds of people over the years. Thank you for the memories!
If the county fair has taught us anything, it’s that life isn’t about what we are; it’s about who we are. And the real purpose in life is to matter! The great arrogance of the present is to forget the intelligence of the past–those that made the fair what it once was.
The fair used to be the heart and soul of this community. Today it cries out for a spiritual awakening, bonding people of a common interest together, and a place where friends, neighbors, and family built relationships that have lasted a lifetime.
The spirit of this fair is as much a part of us as our own esh and blood–and if we fail to keep it nourished, it dies. Bringing the fair back to what is once was, doesn’t require something miraculous to happen. It just requires a little bit of good from a lot of good people.
Super-Size Your Fair/Life
This reminds me of a conversation I overheard while standing in the receiving line at a wake. The wife turned to her husband and said, “Do you think this will be a big funeral?” His response, “The size of one’s funeral often depends on the size of one’s life!”
Profound words that remind us that maybe we should not only be thinking of growing the fair, we should be super-sizing our own lives—not unlike that of driving up to the order window at a fast food restaurant and asking the attendant to super-size the order.
That’s really all God asks of us, when we turn our life over to him. Just as we never know how much we need God until God is all that we have left, so it is with a fair that no longer reaches out to the community for which it once served. This isn’t to suggest that we should dwell on what the fair could’ve been, as God teaches us that forgiveness is giving up all hope that the past could’ve been different.
And if you’re truly serious about changing this fair, you have to dream big, wish hard, and chase after your goals, because no one is going to do it for you. A little prayer wouldn’t hurt either, for just as the goal in life isn’t to live forever; it is the goal to create something that will—the county fair!
The great paradox of attempting to revive the county fair, is realizing that in the midst of great disappointment, you can have great joy as well. My fondest memories are that of the fair; like that of my Dad buying me my most special horse, showing grand champion steers, or winning horse races.
So much of what was is gone; the feeling of the past taken from us, but that doesn’t mean that the future can’t be as bright as the light from my bedroom window. As a kid I can remember looking out from my upstairs bedroom at the bright lights of the midway, and think about what it might be like be old enough to still be on the grounds when the lights were dimmed for the night.
I got that old, and even a little older. But instead of the future looking dimmer, it appears brighter for those who have a vision of what could still come to be. As an old man I’ve come to realize that God gave me two hands–one for helping myself, and the other for helping others, and if you think you’re nished, it only means that you haven’t started yet. All that is really worth doing is what we do for others!
This community gave so much to me, so I feel honored here today to have had the opportunity to give back just a little—thanks for the memories. GOD BLESS!


read also: The Prayer of the Fair

PONY TALES by PONTY: more insightful stories written by Ken Knight

Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.


For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF,  River  Falls,  WI 54022,  phone  toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480,  fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].