Some Scott County old timers have an overflowing backlog of stories about their visits to the Fair over the decades. They stroll through the ever-changing exhibits, ponder the impact of technology, learn about new programs and ideas from Extension, admire the beautifully groomed animals, reflect on urban sprawl and past excursions to the County Fair.
Other visitors to the Fair are new to Scott County, to Minnesota, and definitely to the uncommon characteristics of a real County Fair. Newcomers may at times been overwhelmed by the crowds, Fair fare, the music, the relative merit of a purple ribbon – and yes, even more food .
What all of these Fair-goers share is that deep reality that each has a story to share.
Still, the county Fairgrounds is not the ideal setting to stop and bend a neighbor’s ear with memories of bygone days .
Not to worry. Scott County Fair visitors have a unique opportunity to capture and record their stories for tomorrow’s Fairgoers. All are welcome to stop at Minnesota’s first mobile oral history booth where they will find equipment and trained technical support at the ready to ensure that the even old stories find new life and widening circles of listeners.
Originally the dream of Kathleen Klehr at the Scott County Historical Society, the Mobile Oral History project is shaped by a partnership between the Scott County Historical Society (SCHS) and the Scott County Agricultural Society and funded in part by a Programming Grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
With the Fair just days away project planners and volunteers are working with an interior designer and builders to construct the mobile unit. These front line workers describe the recording booth on wheels as “a weatherproof, comfortable room on a road-worthy, tow-behind trailer. It will be ADA compliant for easy access and ability because the entire trailer will drop with hydraulics to the ground. Though it’s a rush job on a unique project and a sparse budget, all will be in readiness by the Fair’s grand opening on Thursday, July 25 – soon!
As project planners expressed in the grant proposal “This oral histories project will increase understanding between and among long-term residents and new immigrants; increase participation in a historical project from new audiences, gather and preserve memories from an aging population; promote an appreciation for cultural traditions; and offer a forum for open, in-depth discussions.”
The work continues after the close of the Fair on July 29. The recorded stories of Scott County Fair visitors will be preserved with great attention to technical standards, transcription, high quality archival services and accessibility for community members and researchers alike – now and in the future. Through a special collaboration with the Shakopee Women’s Prison residents at the correctional facility will transcribe the recorded stories because, as one planner observed, “this is all worth very little if the substance of the stories can’t be retrieved later.”
And after the Fair, the mobile story collector, now field tested and road-ready, will hit the pavement. The Scott County Agricultural Society is providing a pass-through grant to the Scott Historical Society to purchase the technology and to own and maintain it. The Agriculture Society will own, insure, maintain and store the trailer. Together they will prepare an operating agreement that will permit other organizations to rent the trailer and the technology so that the model developed and tested in Scott County can visit other sites to collect more and diverse stories that capture the essence of a community and the reflections of Minnesotans’ personal experiences.
For Scott County Fairgoers, the challenge is to dip into their personal reservoir of stories to breathe life into the tales that others have not yet heard, the stories that will help neighbors new and old to understand each other and the shared heritage that is common ground for 21st Century Scott County neighbors.