The fair is about agriculture.
While the idea of a county fair was evolving into reality, Sherry Sanders and DeWayne Perry were receiving inquiries from 4-H members who wanted an area of the fair in which they could tell the story of agriculture to young children.
Sanders, a member of a farm family and active in the county’s 4-H program, and Perry, now retired UT Extension Service director, listened and went to work looking for ideas.
Perry spent the summer of 2003 touring fairs in the Midwest, taking a lot of notes and a lot of photos and getting a lot of ideas. When he returned home, Perry and Sanders went over the ideas and photos, filtered out what wouldn’t work or they didn’t like and took what they did like to create something that would work for Williamson County.
“We could see it, but we couldn’t explain it,” Sanders said. “When we asked for money to build it, we got questions. But Dave Crouch got it and trusted us and found the money.”
Lewis Bumpus, former manager of the county Solid Waste Department, reconfigured a few horse stalls in one of the barns to create a space for the project.
By chance, Sanders and Perry found set designer Dan Stupka, owner of Feature Displays. He designed the entrance, all the display panels and came up with the logo, and Little 1’s Farming came to life.
“Two or three days later, Dan sent an artist’s rendering of the different barns,” Sanders said. “As we’ve added things over the years, he draws it and makes it happen. Then he sets it up and tears it down. He makes the magic come together.”
When they see something that isn’t working well, the team changes it to make it work. The addition of a back porch and a hand-washing station after the General Store provides a spot where kids can enjoy a snack before entering the Children’s Barnyard, thus avoiding mixing food with animals.
“This year, we tweaked the flow a little,” Sanders said.
Organizers want youngsters to actually do the farm task and get something for their basket, so the activities are as realistic as they can make them. It’s a lot of work before, during and at the end of the fair — and then two weeks after the fair, planning for next year begins.
Cherry Jackson, Little 1’s Farming volunteer chairman, says that the smiles on the faces of the children and the knowledge that each one has learned something new “makes it all worthwhile.”
Sanders said, “Last year we had more than 37,000 people come through.”
Although Sanders, a widow, is busy enough with farm work, a job outside the home and raising children, she admits Little 1’s Farming has been a kind of therapy.
“It helped me get through the tragedy of losing Brian,” she said. “When I lost him, I lost my identity. This helps me stay a part of something Brian was a part of.”