Believe it or not, our little corner of the universe has much in common with Tampa Bay, Fla.
Tampa Bay has humidity. We have humidity.
Tampa Bay has Tropical Storm Isaac dumping torrential rains. We have, well, a few thunder storms getting our sidewalks wet and making our cars spotty.
Tampa Bay has Republicans. We have Republicans.
Tampa Bay has big, important gatherings like the Republican National Convention. We have the 94th-annual Barton County Farm Bureau dinner and meeting.
My wife and I attended the Farm Bureau event Saturday night in the Barton Community College Student Union. I was there as a member and a representative of the Fourth Estate.
Frankly, even though there was far less hoopla at the BCFB meeting, I think I would have rather been there than in the Florida this week for the GOP shindig. First, I’m a Democrat. Second, Barton County farmers and ag business folks are much more grounded in reality than the thousands of delegates, alternate delegates and politicians crammed into the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
No, we didn’t nominate GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but we did help nominate BCFB President Kyle Schartz. No, there weren’t any cascading balloons, bombastic speeches or over-the-top rhetoric, but there was a local girl singing “America the Beautiful,” really good barbecue pork and a report on water conservation.
OK, so maybe the Farm Bureau meeting lacked the razzle-dazzle and gusty winds (some actually from the storm) seen in Florida. Maybe there were no “important” people at the college Saturday.
But, as the organization’s treasurer said, BCFB’s budget balanced. Also, the delegates sitting in that cafeteria moved through their agenda with methodical precision. The meeting may have lasted about as long as a Wagnerian opera, but at least the lyrics weren’t in German and no one died a violent, fiery death and was swept up to Valhalla in the closing act.
Instead, there were door prizes – potted flowers, thermal coffee mugs and bag chairs.
As a small-town community journalist and member of several such organizations, I have been to countless such meetings. I told my wife as we were leaving that I could probably measure time I’ve spent sitting in butt-numbing hard plastic or folding chairs in years. I could measure ice tea dispensed from large orange Gott coolers I’ve consumed in gallons. Roast beef, barbecue, green beans with almond slivers and dinner rolls could be measured in pounds.
After many of these, I’ve stared at my computer, struggling to pick a news story from what was said. It would be easy to view each of these as cookie cutter events where all one would have to do is just substitute words spoken.
But, as I observed the goings on Saturday, I realized that it was at grass-roots activities such as this that stuff gets done. This is where government of the people happens.
Sure, national events, such as the convention, are important. But when it comes down to it, down to the day-to-day lives of ordinary folks, this is where it matters and where those taking part meet to discuss how to make their lives better.
No, no nationwide policies were enacted. By USA Today, CNN or Fox News standards, nothing of significance took place.
But those present did their part to make their voices heard. It is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of the vanishing rural America striving to stay alive.
Hey, I wonder. Have Great Bend city officials considered courting the Republican National Committee to come here. We have plenty of Republicans and a convention center, and we don’t have hurricanes.
Eat your heart out, Tampa Bay.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.