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soilbabe
Senior Contributor

The County Fair

I consider myself a born and bred farm girl in every way except the county fair.  I just don't get it.  Back home, in WNY, the fair was something we went to once during fair week between our barn chores and field work if we had enough money that year.  Some of my friends had animals they showed or 4-H items they exhibited but it was not a monumental event, just one of many summertime events, like YMCA camp or a family reunion. 

 

My kids and their friends growing up on farms never got into all the fair stuff either.  It just was not a big deal where we were from.  Our school did not have FFA and 4-H was not pushed in our community.  To me as a kid, and to them, the fair was just a bunch of travelling carnival workers who seem kind of dubious characters, a few barns full of commercial exhibits and animals, lots of animals, the demolition derby and some entertainment.  Lest you think our county fair was some teeny dirty thing, I will share that our country fair was the largest county fair in the US for decades until just recently when a county in TX got that distinction.  It was nice just not a major part of our lives by any stretch.

 

Fast forward 40 years and a 500 mile move in a southerly direction and I am nothing short of amazed by the place that the annual county fair holds in the lives of people around here.  Even after 9 years, I just don't get it and neither do my kids who moved here from the north either.  It isn't just SW Ohio either...it seems that the fair is a pretty big deal all over the midwest as I have noted in our travels.

 

I am amazed that whole families plan their vacations and summer months around "fair week"!  They buy campers just to be able to stay at the fair but don't use them for real camping.  Recalling old memories of fair week takes on the significance of something akin to HS graduation or even a wedding.  It is a BIG DEAL.  Even adults, way past the years of their own participation in fair activities, seem to get all excited and crazy around fair week.  They turn into competetive, crazy "show ring parents" who act like their whole existence depends on how much their kid's steer brings in the market sale. 

 

This is the one area of my farm life that I just totally cannot relate to other farm wives or moms.  Part of me feels like I have missed out on something that seems so special and important to folks.  The other part of me feels like it is way overblown and that all this fuss about market lambs and show pigs and showmanship is silliness.  I was not a 4-Her or an FFA member but I have grown to have tremendous respect for the FFA program in schools.  THOSE kids just make me feel there is hope for America.

 

Obviously, with Ed a retired FFA teacher, this was a big part of his life and of his children's.  Just like any other interest that we may not completely share, I try to be supportive and interested (and it gets easier with the grandkids being involved) but to me it still is just another week. 

 

How important is the fair in your family's life?  Do any of you feel like me that it is all overblown?  Or do you have fabulous memories of your childhood fair experiences (and/or wonderful current experiences with your children) that make the fair a key part of your summer?  Help me understand.  We are coming up on fair week in all the counties around us and I just think it borders on silliness to be that nuts about something. 

 

I bring up this subject because I am going to enter some of my photographs in the fair this year.  This will be the first time I ever entered anything in any fair in my entire 52 years !  I am hoping it stimulates some enthusiasm in me. 

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25 Replies
Sundae1964
Veteran Contributor

Re: The County Fair

Back home in Ca. our Co. fair last a month now!  Yes that is right a month.  Back then I enjoyed showing my calf through FFA and now my kids do 4H.  Our Co. fair would be nothing without the 4H that is how small it is.  Not many rides if any, people only come to watch their kids and the livestock shows.  But this is a place where kids get together and make everlasting friendships, my kids know many of kids from other local towns because of 4H and the Co. fair.  We of course do not spend the night there, but I guess people did years ago. 

This is a place where any kid can when at something..livestock..exhibts and so forth...you don't need to be a brain, athlete or musicaly talented...just good at something and everyone has that talent hidden in them somewhere and this is a place they can get rewarded for it.

As my kids are growing they are becoming less into what is at the fair but still enjoy it for the friendships.

Its amazing how you talk about your fair being so big, then we get our district fair that is ranked as the largest to display farm equipment in the US oh my there is so much of that stuff I think any farmer could just get lost walking around and looking at it all day, I know DH does lol.

Well time to get ready for another cattle show in DesMoines, have a great weekend!

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turkey feather
Senior Contributor

Re: The County Fair

County fairs here are as you have described, a big deal. That is until the past 8 years or so. In times past, it was a major event, visiting and showing livestock (important to sell breeding stock) and showing off your baking and sewing and canning skills etc. Our one time huge fair has steadily declined to the point it should consider closing. I blame the people who stayed in the same offices for 20 yrs and did not visit other fairs to see what was new and that they could bring in the this fair. But the problem now is that their is just too much competition from large amusment parks and little league and summer leagues other sports etc. The cost for rides and entrance fee is also a factor. They have tried major league tractor pulls and it rains it out every year.  But yes, county fairs were a big deal for me and my family.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: The County Fair

Do not ever recall a county fair in our homeplace in VA.  We went mostly to a sort of regional fair in Petersburg, one afternoon into evening,each year. 

There was the state fair in Richmond, and we went there a few times, as I recall to see my aunt's blue-ribbon flower arrangements (you can imagine how much a kid cared about THAT!) My family did not take off any time for recreation of any sort that I can remember.  They never took a vacation until I was grown and gone, when they took my two younger sisters to Disneyworld and some stuff like that. 

We did not show animals, since my father said that he did not have time or space to dedicate to a few show pigs, when he could use it to make money.  That pretty much sums up my childhood, I guess. 

He also said that people would accuse us of just picking the best of a large herd to show.  Since that was exactly what my uncle did on his place with his two boys, I guess you could say I saw how unfair fair showing could be. 

Hope your photos do well.  While you are taking them in, why not carry some of your rug work? 

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FarminGal
Contributor

Re: The County Fair

Growing up going to County Fair was a family event......We had a Pee Wee Rodeo for several years and all 3 of us were in 4-H and then FFA.   One year I was also Pee Wee Rodeo Queen and another I was our County Fair Queen (My Poor Mom!)  It was something we all looked forward to participating in and yes, we do look back on with great memories.  The stories we could all share!  Now I have Nieces and Nephews that show at that fair.  I have to say that it is a lot smaller than it used to be and they are charging way to much to go to it but it is still there.

 

My husband grew up in a much larger area than I did.  My fair was the states "oldest Fair" and lasted 4 days.  Here where DH grew up it is a much larger event with a PRCA rodeo at the same time.  We start "Fair Week" on Monday and it goes thru the next Monday (which is Labor Day).  DH was in 4-H and showed his horse at fair.  He has also been involved in the rodeo and still is before it even starts. We do not have kids who show (long story about their "show mom") but being involved in the FFA Alumni, we do help with the FFA kids, I have judged herdsmenship and I am also a Superintendent for our Hay, Grain and Forages Dept. DH is a ring man at the livestock sale too.  We have both also entered items in the fair.  I have to say winning the Judges Choice, Best of Show and a Memorial Award last year in the Professional Division of the Floral Designs was a boost to my ego Smiley Happy

 

People around here are already talking about "Fair Week"  it is a big deal and our town fills up with visitors for both the fair and rodeo.  We have a big parade, there are lots of people that come back "home" that week also.  As farmers, we all hope to not be putting up hay that week (most of the time we get lucky) with our U-pick Patch, we plant extra for that week and it is our biggest week for u-pick sales.  I do flowers for a local restaurant and have also done the decorations for a local hay tarping companies huge party!  The locals here look at Fair Week as the ending of summer, and school starts 2 days after fair ends!  Yes, Fair week is a very busy one but also a fun one that we all look forward to!

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wt510151
Senior Contributor

Re: The County Fair

It is a BIG deal here too. There are many younger kids that are involved. Have to be 12 before you can show at the state fair.  For some it is their family vacation, especially for those who work at the larger hog farms. It is hard to find time and money to go to the amusement parks and far off places with larger families (many in the area). I met many friends by showing hogs and getting out of my "comfort zone." Some are now FFA advisors in the area or have kids of their own showing. When I judged a show, it was nice to see the parents and kids work together to get the hogs to the ring even if one was their competitor's. That's the same kind of teamwork and sportsmanship shown in athletic games. It's a chance for those that don't have athletic talents to bloom into responsible adults.

When I showed my parents kept me away from the carnival so I couldn't tell you much there. The FFA and 4-H livestock shows were the free draws for the public. The county fair is free but had to pay if you wanted to attend the car races, wagon races, and demo derby events. It has changed little over the years. More of the acreage type exhibits (poultry, small animals, horticulture), but it still draws many people wanting to eat corn dogs and pet the animals. We're thankful that there is still a chance to educate people about agriculture by getting large crowds to the county fair.

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wt510151
Senior Contributor

Re: The County Fair

There weren't any accusations of picking the best of a large herd at the county fair. Size of herds could be different there then than when I showed too. Many picked their best from 500 hd finishing barns while some parents paid hundreds of dollars per show hog. Today it is more of the latter than the former. Showing county fair hogs gave me my first taste of how unfair life can be. If kids go on in life thinking it would always be fair, then they would be in for a rude awakening after high school or college. 

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wt510151
Senior Contributor

Re: The County Fair

Between the youth shows and paid events, I don't think our fair would have much attendance either. I don't recall district fairs. Always exhibited at the State Fair when in FFA. Mostly animals as there weren't many machinery sales. Husker Harvest Days provides most of that in the state. From what I've read, the new State Fair will have animal shows and less vendor space than what it had in Lincoln.

Good Luck at the Des Moines cattle show!

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Artifice
Senior Contributor

Re: The County Fair

fairs are fun but tiring

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jennylynn122196
Senior Reader

Re: The County Fair

Well as for me I live and die the fair.  It is a week that I start talking about the next one as soon as the current one is over.  I have been a 4-H leader for 10 years.  Not only are there all the animals but we have a whole college gym full of indoor projects.  And the doors are busting at the seams.  I have kids in my club that just do indoors projects (photos, sewing , cooking, etc.) and then alot of them do both, they have indoor proj. and livestock.  We camp all week (I am not a camper) and have such a great time.  Lots of memories.  I can also remembering being down at the fair all week when I was in 4-H also.  we also have a huge FFA program at the fair.  We don't have a carnival and everything is free.  Kids just find their own fun still, like mud slides, water fights in the wash racks, etc.  Kinda like one big sleep over, every kid is spending the night in someones camper each night.

 

We live 20 miles away, not too far.  One of us just comes homes and does chores each day.  My FIL doesn't  camp just comes down to fair during day and not all days so he takes care of all the small things around the farm back home.  There are some families that take the animal showing to the extreme and spend alot of money, but we just don't participate in the that part of the show.  We show our animals more in the classes that have to do with carcass.  That some time is discouraging to the kids but it is something that in my family my kids just know that you don't go out and spend $10,000 on a steer.  We just take one out of our herd. (Could be on that soap box all day)

 

So to answer your question yes the County Fair is a huge deal around my area.  Then there is the Sate Fair, can't wait for that either, don't stay the whole time but do stay a few days here and there.  That is the time we have to be home to do chores because FIL stays up at the State Fair.  It is 3.5 hours away from us.  But in my little world the county fair is far more enjoyable then the state, less people. LOL!!!!  Have a good day!

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