By Donovan Glasgow, Farm Fellow
Earlier in September, the long-anticipated Highland County Fair took place in Monterey. Fellows counted down the days leading up to the event, discussing what fair foods we hoped to eat (funnel cake, of course) and whether we would puke if we got on the rides (definitely yes, for me). Our anticipation grew as staff and the previous cohort told us about the events to take place: the monster truck rally, the demolition derby, the Elvis impersonator. Volunteering for the intake of the canned goods, baked goods, and art competitions promised to show us a side of the county we haven’t seen before. Needless to say, we were excited.
Like many other Fellows, I’m not from a rural place. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Albuquerque, and my parents hail from the Rust Belt cities of Cleveland and Flint. The culture and traditions of rural Appalachia are unfamiliar to me. It is a strange feeling to live somewhere very different from your home. Walking around Monterey, I am aware of how much of an outsider I am to this community; it often feels like us Fellows stick out like seven sore thumbs. It’s not just the fact that everyone knows everyone here, I’m also easily spotted as “from away” by my clothing, manners of speaking, and skin color. Of course, every community member we have met has been warm and welcoming, but the out of place feeling naturally persists. On the other hand, this was exactly one of the draws that brought me to AMI—the chance to get to know a place and people radically different from where and with whom I’m familiar. As a celebration of local culture and heritage, the fair offered a chance to come down from our insular mountaintop home and interact with the greater Highland community.
The fair really begins with a parade. Lex, Brennan, and I watched from a community member’s front yard in Monterey, eating hotdogs, drinking beer, and picking up candy on the sidewalk that the children either overlooked or decided was not worth grabbing. Their loss. The slow procession of old-timey cars and tractors, youth club floats, and firetrucks, was fun to behold. Near the end of the parade, a contingent of Confederate soldier reenactors marched on with solemn faces (they weren’t throwing any candy). After the parade passed, we quickly walked to the fair, wanting to secure our seats at the monster truck rally. We got there early, and we passed the time by surveying the scene. Lex won an inflatable sword from the hammer game as well as a stuffed animal, which he promptly gave to Jessa’s daughter.
The experience of watching monster trucks from 40 feet away, sitting on the kind of metal bleacher seats you find at little league baseball diamonds, is nearly indescribable. You can feel each rev of the engine through your seat. In other words, we probably should have brought ear protection. The trucks were a blast, and the demolition derby the next night was even more exhilarating. Packed like sardines in the stands, we screamed and cheered for our favorite cars as they crashed into each other. It was my first derby, but it certainly won’t be my last. One of the most valuable experiences I had was volunteering to do intake for the photo competition. This entailed filling out forms and helping to organize the photo exhibit, meaning I got to see nearly every photo entered and interact with the folks who took them. Exquisite landscapes, loving candids, and beautiful animals were common subjects. The adoration that community members feel for their home was palpable in each piece. I now feel closer to this place and its people, and I’m looking forward to calling Highland County my home next year.