Joan Snook Smith, president of the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show Association, had always wanted to write and publish her own book. In the summer of 2020, she did.
With the help of her friend and former co-worker, Jeanne Heinke, and members of the Sussex County community, Smith published the children’s book “Rooster’s Day at the Fair” only a few months after the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The book details the journey of a rooster as he makes his way through the various shows and activities offered at the Sussex County State Fair.
One of the sketches by Heather Strout from the Rooster book was used to make the Fair souvenir pin this year.
Smith, a retired special education teacher at High Point Regional High School, has been involved with the fair for her entire life. Her family has lived in Sussex County for eight generations, so she grew up participating in local traditions, including the fair.
“It wouldn’t be August without the fair,” she said. “I would finish school in June and, within days, be over at the fair administration office, getting things done for the fair. It’s always been my summer thing.”
She fondly remembers times when her mother and father would bring her to the fair as a young child. Her parents volunteered at the fair, which sparked Smith’s passion for family and tradition. Just like generations before her, she hopes to keep the tradition alive.
“Tradition and family mean a lot to me, and the biggest traditional thing in Sussex County is the fair,” she said. “I’ve worked hard, I think, to continue the county fair atmosphere, but also provide something for everyone that comes.”
In their book, Smith and Heinke payed tribute to this “county fair atmosphere” by capturing “the magic and tradition” of agricultural fairs and festivals across America. To do this, they enlisted the help of the Sussex County community.
Once the pair had written the text of the book, they distributed it to local artists, who used the prompts to create illustrations for the corresponding text. Sue Struble, Smith’s friend and fellow fair volunteer, coordinated this process.
Each illustration features a rooster — the main character of the story. The rooster serves as a symbol of and mascot for the fair. Its importance is rooted in the tradition of opening the fair with a rooster’s crow, which has only been delivered by three men in history: Jules Marron, Warren Welsh, and Aldo Sayre. Sayre, age 101, will be performing his Rooster Crow at the end of the Opening Day parade on August 5 at 7 PM in the Horse Show ring.
“It was a community project,” Smith said.
She still remembers the excitement she felt when she held the book in her hands for the first time.
“You see it on the computer, but until it’s actually on a glossy page in front of you, with your name on it, you don’t really get the full effect,” she said.
The book will be available for purchase at this year’s fair, located at the Sussex County Fairgrounds from Aug. 5 to 13.