I realize organizing an event is not easy. I've done it, and it is often one situation after another and can be a royal pain, therefore, I hope I can temper my review of this one with kindness. I must also be truthful, and the plain truth is we were sorely disappointed after driving 2 1/2 hours to get to the Farm and Poultry Expo in Boaz, Alabama. This is a reincarnation of the old Chicken and Egg Festival that was held annually in Moulton, Alabama. They decided not to continue with it so the current organizers built on their framework and moved the festival to Boaz.
We garden and raise chickens, ducks, turkeys, guineas and geese and when I read "farm and poultry expo," I expected to find birds exhibited and be able to discuss the pros and cons others have encountered in raising them, new products that might better suit our needs than what we can find locally, maybe T-shirts and wearing apparel related to farming and poultry raising, information and products on treating sick or wounded birds, and especially to discuss with others like myself on ways I can reduce the cost of feeding my flock. These guys are eating us out of house and home, and there has to be a more economical approach.
Our first clue something might have gone amiss should have been that there was no street address given anywhere that we found – not online postings, or on signs. Everything said the festival was at the fairgrounds and we figured, "How hard could the fairgrounds be to find?" As it turns out, pretty hard since the festival was not at the fairgrounds, but in the old outlet mall that is basically empty now.
We spotted an entertainment venue and stopped to ask where the farm and poultry expo was, expecting directions to the fairground. We were told that was it. Seeing nothing we expected, we asked where was the farm and poultry venue and the girl pointed and said, "The chickens are over there." As my eyes followed the length of her arm and extended finger and on in the direction she was pointing, all that was there was a carniva-type game that was giving away baby chicks as prizes. As I stood there trying to think of a polite comment, something deep inside me just took over and pushed the words out of my mouth, "Is that it?" It was. Well, except for a table with some catalogs from Murray McMurray hatchery like the dogeared copy on my nightstand.
An entertainer was singing in the parking lot, bouncy houses for the children, a vendor selling plants and flowers, a vendor exhibiting a tractor and tank for cleaning commercial chicken houses, a chainsaw wood carver, clothing (non-farm/poultry) clothing, candles, Alabama and Auburn items, a rather nice display of a cut-away 1940s tractor that allowed the viewer to see from one side the entire process of how the motor functioned, food vendors, and a local store had Husqvarna mowers and a couple of tillers on display.
I made for the latter as we are in the market for a tiller, but not one that costs nearly a thousand bucks. When I asked what attachments are available for the mowers in the event we may choose to go that route, already having the lawn tractor, the young man said he didn't know but we could go shop at their store.
We checked out the classes being offered and saw that they were on gardening topics and bees, neither of which was going to address the topics on which we sought information, so after being there roughly half an hour and having seen most everything, we decided to call it quits and antique shop our way home.
In summary, I freely admit while I consider myself a top-notch researcher and I've written books and magazine articles and have done live cooking demos on local and national television, I can be somewhat of a ditz in that I invariably get where I'm going having left something at home. Before a book signing, my sweet husband always asks if I have a pen with which to sign my books because all too many times I've gotten to a signing and not had one. I often forget my sunglasses and walk through an event squinting, one eye closed, like a pirate with a patch covering one eye. I'm not the most organized person you'll find.
But, having looked forward to the "farm and poultry expo" for months, I was ready. In the past this event has been billed as one of the top festivals in the state with more than 27,000 people attending so I had on my most comfortable walking shoes ready to cover a lot of ground. I had my backpack to carry my purchases, I had a little money in my pocket, I not only had my sunglasses, I even had a hat to help block the sun. I was wearing my GRIT blogger T-shirt hoping to help spread the word about the wonderful blogs on so many interesting topics. I'm telling you I was ready for a day at the expo. Instead, a little more than half an hour after arriving we were back in the truck looking for an antique store.
For locals, it was a nice morning to go out, let the children play and maybe look at a new mower or pick up a couple of hanging baskets for the porch, but for serious farm people who, like us, drove long distance to get there it was a real let-down. I hope for next year they choose a more appropriate name for the festival, one that adequately describes what it has to offer and that it is a tremendous success for them in the years to come because the Sand Mountain area is really quite nice.