When I was growing up I never lived in a city or town that had a county fair. As part of my job with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services I get the chance to visit county fairs across the state. Last week I went to the Macon County Fair in western NC. This fair is everything I think a county fair should be. There aren't carnival rides, there is no admission fee. This fair was all about agriculture. It didn't take long to see all that I was missing.
I was missing the chance to see and hold the Grand Champion Chicken. I don't think everyone gets to hold the Grand Champion but I have to say she was very polite. This Speckled Sussex hen (female chicken) was raised by Debbie McGill. Debbie bought her at the local feed store. Debbie and her husband told me how over 300 school kids visited the fair and were able to see the chickens. One of the teachers happened to be standing nearby and told me her students drew pictures of the chickens after their visit. I bet those kids could tell you that eggs come from a chicken, not the grocery store.
I was missing educational booths. This is the Macon County Beekeeper's Association booth. Did you know beekeepers can put cameras in the hive so they can monitor the hive's activity on their computer? I didn't until I visited this booth. And speaking of bees....
I was missing the honey and other canned goods. There were canned vegetables and fruits, salsas and tomato sauce and things I've never thought about canning. Once I get a little more canning experience under my belt (read about my canning day here) I may enter my local county fair. There were also cakes, cookies and other baked goods. It didn't take long for me to get hungry.
I was missing out the chance to see beautiful handmade crafts by kids of all ages. Do you see that clock? It is handmade from wood. According to the lady sitting at that booth, this is a one-of-a-kind creation. Stunning.
I loved watching kids walk though the display areas looking for their artwork. There were drawings, paintings, crafts made from clay and legos. There were hundreds of ribbons.
I was missing livestock shows. I have loved livestock shows since I saw my one when I was a teenager in 4-H. I took the bottom picture during the sheep show. The participants are competing in showmanship. The judge is looking at how the showman works with the animal. Read more about how to show sheep here.
The top picture is the rabbit show. Now I have seen rabbits at other county and state fairs. I have never seen them judged and always wondered what you look for in a rabbit. This show was really neat because the judge had a microphone and as she moved down the row of rabbits she talked about what she was looking for and why each rabbit placed. Rabbit shows are intense. The judge talked about the animal's hips, ears (one rabbit had ears to long for its breed but held them up well), age (one was to old), loose neck, weak shoulders and other characteristics I've never thought of in rabbits.
I was missing out on the chance to win a dairy calf, a piglet, a heifer (female cow that hasn't had a calf) and a cord of wood. I called My Farmer and asked him if I won would he put up a fence for the calf. I think he thought I was prank calling him.
What I've really been missing is the sense of community. This was a family event. There were parents and grandparents and children looking at the exhibits, getting animals ready to show or sitting in the stands supporting those in the show ring. The booths were filled with local businesses. The raffles benefited local causes. The fair was planned and run by volunteers.
If you ask me, that's what a county fair is all about. It's not about the rides or the must-have new food (does anyone really like chocolate covered bacon or deep fried candy bars?). It's about the community coming together. That's the feeling I got as I walked the Macon County Fair and talked to people. It didn't matter that I was from some little town across the state. For that evening, I was a part of their community.