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Mona Townsend, 79, was resting on a bench with several friends on Monday after nearly two hours of perusing china, knitting and crop displays at the Jackson County Fair. The three women spoke quickly and animatedly, leaning over one another and waving their hands wildly in the air.
Passerbys walked around the three friends, pausing periodically to observe the various teapots and handmade baby sweaters staged around the arena.
“The last time I was here was in ’67,” Townsend said. “My husband won the grand prize in photography.”
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Whereas the city of Jackson has been progressing with the times, the Jackson County Fair is a return to the traditions that lie at the root of the city.
Townsend is a petite woman with bright blue eyes who smiles frequently. Her family tree runs deep throughout Michigan; her father was originally from Grand Ledge, near Lansing. She was born and raised in Jackson and her family has been rooted in northern Michigan for as long as she can remember.
“I took a trip to Hawaii once,” Townsend said, “but that was it.”
After spending a lifetime in Jackson, Townsend knows a thing or two about how Michigan has changed over the years.
Significant development in the industrial sector and rising living costs over the last century have affected many residents –particularly Townsend. She has fond memories of sailing on the waters of Hubbard Lake, where her family used to own waterfront property. “We sold it in 2007,” Townsend said. “It got too expensive with maintenance and upkeep.”
Now retired, Townsend began her career as a high school English teacher, and then worked as a proofreader at Consumers Energy.
Although the rest of Jackson is continually evolving, the Jackson County Fair has managed to preserve Michigan’s traditions since its start 157 years ago. The annual fair draws thousands of visitors who come to indulge in what the fair has to offer. Over its seven-day run, the fair covers animal judging, milking and baking contests, and a range of exhibitions that display everything from veterans’ old army equipment to prize-winning yellow squash.
Though the fair continues to maintain its traditions, it has changed a bit since Townsend’s last visit more than 40 years ago. There was “more dirt” back then, she explained.
“We’re having a good time,” Townsend said, the corners of her eyes crinkling as her mouth turned upward into a smile. “A really good time.”