You know summer is here when you see the brightly colored flyers hanging in store windows of this event or that event. You don all the sunscreen you can find, grab the cash and head over. You see the cars lining the streets and have a nostalgia wash over you as you gear up for the summer festivals you’ve been to for so many years. You visit with people you haven’t seen in ages while you buy yet another lump of cotton candy. The smell of corndogs, burgers and — yes, my favorite — elephant ears hangs in the air, for hours after the last vendors close their shops.

Sure, if you’re like me, you’ve been to all of these events a million times before. But, go again. Explore each festivity with new eyes: look for the familiar faces to catch up with; explore the shop you haven’t checked out for a while; go ahead and just grab the junk food (I couldn’t say it better than Karin at The Local when she said, “Hey, it’s okay to have ice cream before coffee!”).

You live here. You work here. You play here. So, take the opportunity to re-explore the towns, shops, vendors — the places that make Union County “home.” The Grassroots Festival of Union, the Union County Fair, Elgin’s Riverfest, Cove’s Cherry Fair and North Powder’s Huckleberry Festival — and all the other events that make summer “summer” in Union County have a way of bringing out the youthful nostalgia in us.

At this point, I’m not running between antique cars or playing tag with friends — and, yes, I might stretch a little more frequently to keep my back from stiffening up — but I still get the flutter of excitement as I look from booth to booth, exploring the wonderous offerings, hunting for treasures. Sure, I gravitate toward measuring spoons, tea towels, tools and home decor much more than I ever remember doing years ago, but I’ll be the first to admit that during the recent Crazy Days in La Grande, I glanced, repeatedly, at the gushing fire hydrant.

Spend a few hours — or spend the day — perusing each booth, enjoying the fresh air, and simply taking time to be carefree. It’s interesting to note, the more time you spend exploring, the more you find to explore. What was going to be an hour or two turns into the afternoon or even the whole day, moving from vendor to vendor, shop to shop. Think of the impact it has on our local economy — one day, one afternoon, even one hour of time spent browsing, finding little knickknacks or necessities. It plays into what has been said before: Investing in your local economy is an investment in long-term vibrancy for the community.

The simple act of taking time to check out the local summer festivals is literally making Union County better — for everyone. Who would have guessed that having a beer at the Eastern Oregon Beer Festival is doing your small part in making the community a better place to live, work, and play? (I’m not going to be the one to argue with that logic!)

So, while we might be too old to run through the fire hydrant geyser at Crazy Days, to compete in the pie eating contest at the Cove Cherry Fair, or even to ride the pig train at Island City’s Hog Wild Days, we’ll never get too old to indulge on a giant elephant ear … or two.

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Suzannah Moore-Hemann is the executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Information Center.

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