As I look at this picture, I am reminded of my childhood when I loved to attend my cousins’ county fair experiences as the showed their cattle and made the yummiest cakes, rolls and jellies. It was always fun to walk through the exhibit halls, celebrating my maternal family’s rich agricultural heritage that went back for generations.
Ever since the 1800s, county or state fairs (also known as agricultural fairs) in the United States have given people a chance to celebrate the local agriculture and domestic pursuits of their local community or state. They were immensely popular in states where agriculture was an important part of the economy. They also provided entertainment in a pre-digital era. In the decades since the first one was started in New York State in 1841, a few state fairs have closed but most of them are still in operation drawing anywhere from 7,000 people to almost 2.5 million people (or .3% of the state’s population up to 58% according to Wikipedia).
Today they still draw people, even urbanites, firstly because of the FOOD! Oh my word… fair food is so good, especially if it highlights the county’s or state’s agricultural food. At the Pennsylvania Farm Show (which is PA’s version of a State Fair, although strangely held in January and not in the summer) food made out of Pennsylvania’s top agricultural products are offered for purchase such as: potato donuts (YUM!), baked potatoes, French fries, milkshakes, ice cream, cheese and maple syrup candy. I’ve also been to the Indiana State Fair (whose website refers to the fair as the best two weeks of summer) where one can get a Peach Cider Slush (YUM!!), Hatch Green Chili Beef Meatballs, Curd Cups and BBQ Pork Potachoes. And if that isn’t enough flavor and calories for you, you can always try the deep fried sugar cream pie or fried chicken and waffles. The Illinois State Fair offers ethnic food as a part of their lineup. They have an English, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Filipino, Greek, Mexican, Indian and Mediterranean booths. Hungry, yet?
Secondly, the exhibits are a fascinating showcase of what children and youth can do through 4H. They show their livestock (goats, cattle, sheep for example), display their clothes and wood working that they’ve made by hand, and present their food that they have learned to either make from scratch or preserve. I always loved the cake auction held at the end of the fair. My cousins would always eagerly want to know what their placement was in the competition – was it a red, blue, reserve champion or maybe even grand champion ribbon? As for the music, there is something special about clapping and singing along to the music with your friends and family out in the summer heat. You definitely feel like you are a part of the American experience at that point.
August is the time that most State Fairs in the United States take place. If you have a chance, you should visit at least one day of the fair. As you and your loved ones eat (or dream of) some yummy fair food, this would be a great time to assemble this city and village jigsaw puzzle entitled “A Good Day for the Fair” by Kevin Walsh.