The creative side of the Lane County Fair does indeed encourage branching out and setting goals. Until three years ago, I admit that I went to the fair for the fun, almost skipping over the entries.

But I couldn’t completely ignore that aspect of the fair — after all, my grandmother had made fair entries of anything she could teach herself to do, earning ribbons as a farm girl in Minnesota and continuing on into her retirement years with entries at the Grant County Fair in John Day. I had always admired stories of Grandma teaching herself to paint, preserve foods, etc.

But it wasn’t until three years ago that my daughter and I were hooked, accidentally.

Greta was in kindergarten in Wisconsin and we enjoyed a small county fair in our town. It was hard to skip any part of the fair — it was just the right size to have it all without feeling lost among the unattainable inflatables.

We thought we had seen it all and were ready to head home when we passed a small building with a display board out front. The sign above the artwork named one of the local schools. We were curious to see if Greta’s school had a display, so in we went.

There in front of us stood a tall display with the name of her school on top, and among 15 identical-looking flowers, Greta pointed to one on the bottom: “That’s mine!”

There it was: the glossy white ribbon from the county fair — not a place ribbon, but an honor. We both giggled as we held it in our hands, ignoring the sign that warned us not to touch. It was ours! Hers. She’d earned an award for her creativity, for her effort, for her completion of a project.

As we returned home to Oregon and a much larger Lane County Fair, the idea that ribbons might elude the rookies didn’t stop us from trying. Greta made a diorama. As our family hurried past all the other festivities to the art department, the thrill grew as we spied a third place ribbon.

This year Greta's goal was to make three things to enter in the fair. She did it. As we stood in the small line at the empty fairgrounds before all the hullabaloo of rides and ribbons, I helped her turn in her artwork and a book she’d worked on for months.

As we finished I said, “I’m proud of you, Sis! Three projects completed. Good work!” The lady who handled our entry, though she’d moved to the next in line, was kind enough to take the time to back me up: “Yes, nice work. You should be proud.”

My daughter’s smile grew, but hers was not nearly as big as mine. What a thrill to get a ribbon. What fun to be at the fair. What joy to find that the little things — lessons about hard work and just plain trying in life — that I work every day to pass on to my kids can, in such a little way, by one such person, have such a big impact on a little kid trying to be a part of it all.

I'm grateful to the Lane County Fair for carrying on the tradition of prize ribbons, to the woman who encouraged my daughter to keep working hard, and to Greta for being a lot like Grandma and teaching me something new. See you at the fair!

Oh, and about those unaatainable about those inflatables: I’ve got a nephew who can win any one you want. All it takes is determination.

Megan Gramzow is a stay-at-home mother of three who lives in Springfield.