The North Franklin School District thought it was getting out in front when it settled its school calendar for next year early.
Unfortunately, there was an unintended consequence. The district ran right into the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo. Anyone who thinks this is a trivial matter is wrong.
Fairs, like schools, are important business.
The district set school to start Aug. 25, the same day the fair opens. Since so many North Franklin students participate in the fair, and many work as hard on their animals and exhibits as on their school work, this was a big problem.
The North Franklin district serves Connell, Eltopia, Mesa, Basin City and lots of real estate in between.
The school district and its teachers union set the dates last winter.
Now North Franklin Superintendent Gregg Taylor told the Herald’s Franny White that the district will have to consider changing it.
“We have a significant number of students that do FFA and 4-H,” Taylor said. “It would be a real hard challenge to start school without those kids being there.”
Moving the fair dates is not an option. They are allocated by the state Department of Agriculture years in advance following a rigid schedule. The fair will be Aug. 25-29 next year. As always, it will end on the weekend before Labor Day weekend.
The Benton-Franklin fair is always scheduled between the fair in Moses Lake and the Walla Walla County fair, which always includes Labor Day weekend.
The problem has come up before, notably four years ago in Richland.
Fairs aren’t just for kids on farms anymore, or just for Mama’s prized apple preserves.
Fairs are important. Yakima got the first state fair in 1892 as a result of a huge battle in the Legislature.
The compromise that was worked out put the first state fair in Yakima to even things out for putting the capital in Olympia.
It’s hard for us to figure who came out ahead or on the worst end of that deal.
Today, fairs are as urban as arts competitions, as up to the minute as rock concerts and as dizzyingly exciting as the Tilt-a-Whirl.
But for all that, they are rock-solid connections to the land and to tradition.
Around here, the first settlers, whether native or later immigrants, were wedded to agriculture.
And fairs go back to prehistoric times, before the Romans, for example. You think Stonehenge never had people in?
Surely the North Franklin district will work this out.
Surely our other school districts will take this as a reminder that they need to do the same