CLAY COUNTY – When I stopped at the fairgrounds Monday to check on the early preparations for this year’s Clay County Agriculture Fair, I found general manager juggling several jobs.
Her jeans were dirty and wrinkled. Her shirt and sweatshirt were a twisted mess at her waist, and she had dirt matted under her fingernails.
The young woman in charge of bringing agriculture, education, funnel cakes and fun to Clay County had never looked better.
When Tasha is busy, it means we all are continuing to emerge from the chasm of fear and depression that came with COVID-19. A year after everyone was sucker-punched by a deadly virus, we are finally coming back to the sunshine.
Without forgetting the past and our protocols, it’s time to look forward. There’s a lot out there to enjoy.
The fair will return this year on April 1. It was canceled last year 21 days ahead of opening night after the county learned of its first official coronavirus case. This year, the Cattleman’s Arena will be busy with concerts; the midway will be electric with neon lights and the screaming laughter of children; and, the food court will offer a dizzying collection of sweet and smokey flavors.
“This is the way the fair is supposed to be – outdoors where we can get our shoes dirty,” she told volunteers and fair supporters Tuesday in the annual pre-fair luncheon.
But there’s so much more on the county’s horizon.
The Vietnam Veterans Recognition ceremony is back. So are the regular farmer’s markets in Green Cove Springs and Orange Park. The schedule at the Trasher-Horne Center is expanding, including the recent addition of one of my favorite comedians, James Gregory, on April 9. (Believe me, you want to see this show).
Charity golf tournaments are back, along with our weekly games. And we can ride two to a cart again. It’s nice to be more concerned with a 195-yard shot over water than getting sick on a sunny day.
Our children have the opportunity to be back in school, and with it comes the benefits of social interaction that can’t be replicated virtually. They can also get back on the playground, ball fields and gymnasiums again. Video games can’t replace a few minutes on the monkey bars.
We can go to the beach without fear, and our sons and daughters can go to birthday parties again.
Life is slowly getting back to normal again – whatever normal will mean in the future.
We can plan vacations again. Instead of sitting at home at watching Indiana Jones marathons every weekend, we can get in the car or on an airplane to go where ever we want. For the first time in more than a year, we are only limited by our imaginations and checkbook balances.
The Jacksonville Jaguars said they are planning for a full stadium next season. For much of the franchise’s existence, the offer of a full house could have been considered a threat. Now it’s a treat, especially with Trevor Lawrence coming in as quarterback and Urban Meyer as the new head coach.
We now can cheer because we love football, not because we finally can enjoy being around others who are just as eager to be part of a celebration.
We can visit the people we love, especially our parents and grandparents. They suffered more than we can appreciate, being isolated from their loved ones and being exposed to the most-vulnerable of our society.
Concerts are coming back. Venues are loading up their summer schedules. Many bands have already hit the road, playing in front of limited audiences. Others are getting back into rehearsals to make grand returns as restrictions are slowly diminished. I can’t wait to “Turn it Up” again.
Although we’ve become comfortable with movies on demand at home, it will be nice to return to the theater again. After all, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make buttered popcorn as good as a theater.
We can go to church without apprehension. We can also make plans and not be worried about them being canceled.
And, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, we can go back to work. Who knew I’d miss getting up, taking a shower and driving across the Shands Bridge every day? While I like being able to write stories at home in a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt, I miss being in the office every day. Just don’t tell my boss.
It’s still important not to ignore we’re in a fight against the virus. But as more of us get vaccinated and we continually learn more about the virus, we can smartly push forward.
We can enjoy the prospects of the future instead of dwelling on the past. We just need to be smart.
And get ready to have fun again.