Several years ago members of Piscataquis Pomona formed a special task force challenged to increase the Grange’s exposure during the annual Piscataquis Valley Fair. One important aspect of the groups’ work was a revised set of guidelines and judging criteria. Mary Annis recalls, “We wanted to maintain the traditional presence, but also encourage greater participation by encouraging displays that allow more creativity. We also felt we could create more interest from the public and better communicate the Grange message. As a bonus, we hoped to encourage more Granges to participate.”
So, while you’ll often find the traditional components of a Grange Fair Display, you’ll also see some things that are very different. One example this year was Garland Grange’s informational display emphasizing the nature of the Grange and describing how many of Garland’s members are farmers and gardeners. The brainchild of Andrea Rollins, the display used attractive signage to familiarize fair-goers with the community nature of the Grange. Admitting the display was created at the eleventh hour Andrea noted that “It’s important we keep doing this. People need to know the Grange is alive and well and can–and does–have a positive impact on our communities and citizens.”
Mary Annis, Janice Boomsma, and Linda Erwin came up with a “Then and Now” approach to Valley Grange’s display. “We often say we are, as a Grange, ‘steeped in tradition, but relevant today,’” Janice said. “And since we love old stuff we thought it would be fun to compare how things used to be done with how they are done today.” The display did turn out to be a traffic stopper as some of the older folks remembered… and some of the younger folks said, “What is that?!” Telephones seemed to be of particular interest with children and grandchildren expressing disbelief that their parents and grandparents actually talked “into those things.”
The Grange portion of the exhibit hall was rounded out with a simple Pomona display that included information about every Grange in the Pomona. Pomona Overseer Walter Boomsma designed the display to serve multiple purposes. “We can use it whenever there’s an opportunity to promote Granges in the area. The stand is also designed to have interchangeable panels and could be used at public suppers and other events where there may be people interested in finding a Grange in our area.” Walter also notes that every display this year had some kind of “handout.” Garland used a list of public suppers and farmers’ market info, Valley had a “rack card” with a tear off coupon, the Pomona Booth featured a directory of Granges in the area with meeting times and contact information. “We want people to remember and find our Granges.”
“Competing for ribbons is really secondary for our Pomona,” he added. “We view the fair as fun–the competition is friendly–but the focus is on offering information and a positive experience to fair-goers.” This year the blue ribbon went to Valley Grange, red to the Pomona, and white to Garland.