See you at the county fair

By Julie Carter, Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

All across America, it is county fair time. Spending a day at the fair is as much a lesson in history and anthropology as it is an excuse to eat homemade pie and see cute bunnies in their best fur coats.

County fairs nurture the roots of rural life. They are one of the few places left that bring the generations of agriculture together to experience a cultural heritage that has been left behind by most of the population of this country.

Yet the fair is a teaching tool as well. One of the reasons it exists is to provide today's youth with a glimpse into the lives of the generations before them.

Local 4-H clubs and FFA chapters champion agricultural education and community service. The members work on several projects throughout the year and come to county fairs to show off their accomplishments.

Fair projects can include anything from baking and knitting to crafts and photography, but at most fairs, the focus is showing off farm animals the youth have been raising. The majority of the fair's events are livestock contests in which 4-H and FFA members display their animals and receive prizes based on which animal shows best confirmation, grooming and obedience.

Fairs are about families. As a rule, you won't find any bawdy acts or provocative contests. You will find food and family oriented fun in a safe place for kids to be kids and parents to sit and catch up with their neighbors.

What is missed by the general public when viewing the fair is the hustle, bustle, cram, jam and near panic that goes on in the last weeks prior to the arrival of the fair participants.

Sometime just after the Fourth of July, the fair families look up at the calendar and gasp. Only four weeks until the county fair! They begin to give a serious eye to the livestock, that up until that moment simply got fed twice a day and not much else. Exercise and nutrition plans take on a scientific edge with the only comfort coming from hearing the neighboring 4-H’er say, “I still can’t catch mine.”

O.K, so maybe almost everyone, at least someone, started as late as we did. Then the crunch to get every animal in the county clipped and trimmed before the fair puts the extension agent and the ag teachers on the road 24/7.

You can spot them easily. They are carrying at least one set of hog scales and two trimming racks in the back of their pickup. They spend long days crisscrossing the county to clip the next set of lambs or spend hours fine tuning the coiffure on a couple of fat steers.

Show boxes are sorted and re-organized, show ring wardrobes planned and the last minute rush is on to finish the braiding, welding and baking projects.

Then finally the fair becomes about relaxing, having fun and showing off a little of what has been learned and accomplished. Lifelong memories are made annually as another generation passes through the show ring.

Find one near you and look at it a little beyond the deep fried ice cream. You might get a few extra moments of joy. See you at the fair!
Julie can be reached for comment at