It's easy to take things for granted when you're part of a relatively small, insular community that knows what its "people" want, and goes about on a regular basis making it happen.

COVID-19 has changed everything, though – even in places like Tahlequah. And it's not over yet. Sadly, two to five people have been dying in Cherokee County every week since the Delta variant took hold. There is no way to minimize the pain of this loss, and those who try to do so are operating on the fringes; they are not the core of who this community is, at its heart and soul.

Who is at the core, then? People who persevere – who do what they must to do keep spirits up, generators running, business operating, services flowing. And some of those are the unsung heroes who make the Cherokee County Fair happen. Like others who comprise the backbone of the community, they ask for no limelight, no kudos – yet there they are, year after year, shining a laser-focused beam on excellence, education, and now, normalcy – whatever that might mean.

Heather Winn and Garrett Ford, the OSU Extension agents, are just the tip of the iceberg. So many long-time participants and community volunteers – like Ann Lamons, for example – are embedded in the whole operation, the engine that runs the fair year-round. The Oklahoma Home and Community Education groups are integral cogs in the wheel.

Because of these determined folks, the fair still happened. The kids still got to show their animals, after a year of diligent work raising them. The adults were able to display their crafts, some of them using traditions they've enfold since time out of mind. All of these efforts are, in a sense, part of what many would consider "lost arts." Except in Cherokee County, they're not lost at all; they are part and parcel of who we really are.

A couple of weeks ago, many folks may have read about what went on at the 2021 Cherokee County Fair. As it always does, the Tahlequah Daily Press was there every day, unearthing the stories that make the fair such a beloved part of our culture. But we should never forget those who labored in the background, asking for nothing more than to help be part of a cohesive effort that defines who we are as a community. And with COVID still raging, their quiet heroism should not be questioned.

If you see people who took part in the fair – either as an entrant or as an organizer – thank them for their service. It means more than even they may know.

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