VARILEK: State Fair brings us togetherFor better or worse, candidates and elected officials often have to think in terms of the things that divide us — who supports this policy issue and who opposes it; who will vote for me and who will vote against me.
By: Matt Varilek, Guest columnist
For better or worse, candidates and elected officials often have to think in terms of the things that divide us — who supports this policy issue and who opposes it; who will vote for me and who will vote against me. But what I love about the State Fair is that it brings us all together as one big South Dakota family.
Sure, you’ll find politics at the Fair. You’ll find debates between candidates, and you’ll find booths hosted by the political parties. But then again, you also find such differences of opinion and belief amongst family members at a reunion. The State Fair is like our annual South Dakota family reunion.
At the Fair, we all gather to celebrate our shared agricultural heritage. We reflect on how agriculture made us strong and helped our economy grow in the past. We learn about new ways it can make us even more prosperous in the future.
At the Fair, we test ourselves in competition, congratulating all who compete and honoring those who win. We cheer the bull riders. We marvel at the 4-H livestock and at the young leaders who raised it. We thank the boyfriend or girlfriend who spent too much hard-earned money to win us the gigantic stuffed animal we had our eye on.
And at the Fair we also kick back. We take in a concert. We ride some rides. We indulge in a few more cheese curds or deep fried donuts than our doctor would recommend. Or we just watch the thousands and thousand of people go by, each of them enjoying the same eclectic mix of activities that keep us coming back, year after year.
It’s OK to have differences. There’s strength in diversity, to be sure. But it’s our shared values — the things we hold in common — that make us a “community” or a “state” or a “country.” The State Fair is where South Dakotans celebrate our identity and remember the ties that bind us all together.
I’ll be at the Fair again this year, and I’ll be there as a candidate. So I’m sure I’ll end up talking about some of our differences, and about why we as a country should follow this path and not that one. I hope if you see me there, you’ll take the time to stop and share your views with me. One of the best things about having so many folks in one place is the chance to hear what’s on the minds of people all across South Dakota.
But I won’t only be there as a candidate. I’ll also be there as a proud member of our South Dakota family.
So even as we discuss our differences in this political season — even as we fret over polarization and division — let’s keep in mind the things we have in common. Let’s remember we all want to make our country stronger. And as always, let’s remember these things together at the South Dakota State Fair.
Matt Varilek is the Democratic challenger for South Dakota’s U.S. House seat.