Forgive me. I have fair brain. It is a condition that occurs every year during the month of July when 4-H projects take over our house and my position as secretary for our county fair association moves into overdrive. We are sleeping, eating, breathing fair in this house. I usually swear off blogging during the month, but then I got inspired and have to share why everyone should visit their county’s fair.
1)Diets don’t count! No joke. You enter the gates of a fairgrounds and food loses its calorie content. <wink, wink> After all, you walk everywhere, laugh a lot and are in good spirits. That has to count towards a funnel cake, fried Oreo or jumbo pork tenderloin, not to mention the pies from the Extension Homemakers; pancake breakfasts from churches; pork chop sandwiches from the county Pork Producers . . . is your mouth watering?
2)Fairs were local before local was cool. From the volunteers to the exhibitors to the food (see #1) fairs are all about community. And that’s just what you see. Behind the scenes, fairs are more likely to patronize local businesses and support local organizations or causes. Why? Because fair directors understand the importance of investing local.
3)The animals are so cute! Caveat, as a former inhabitant of the beef barn, nothing grated on my nerves more than someone cooing over my 1,100 lb steer. He wasn’t cute. He was all muscle and if startled could throw me down like a doll. But, I’ll grant you this. Fairs do have animals and some are so cute! (Did I just squeal?) My personal fair favorite is walking the barns and watching families, mostly the kids, care for their animals. How can anyone visit and doubt the love these animals receive? Keep in mind, though, livestock barns are not petting zoos. Don’t touch! Although many of the animals are docile, they practice ‘stranger danger’ too. A sudden move, noise or touch could send a large animal over a gate. Fair directors would prefer to keep the rodeo in the grandstand.
4)Support the volunteers. In the case of many small county fairs, no one is paid to make this happen. Fairs are complex events involving hundreds of volunteers. Many are living a family legacy by serving as director on the fair board or as superintendent of a project department. No fair volunteer is fishing for a compliment congratulating them on a job well done. They’d just like to see you at the fair. Your presence will speak volumes.
5)You’ll be the best boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, <insert descriptor here>. Picture this: Strolling the mid-way with your sweetheart, hand in hand, underneath the pink sky of a summer sunset. Sipping from the same oversized lemonade shake-up and nodding hellos to friends. I promise a fair date is a win. Are you a usual dinner and movie couple? Try something different. Visit the fair.
Parents: county fairs are the staycation destination. Many offer free parking, some have a minimal gate fee, and at our fair kids 12 and under enter free. Once inside, you can’t go wrong wandering through the livestock barns or stopping by the goat show and letting the kids enter the novice class. The carnival lights and sounds are powerful, but steer your family to the FREE entertainment like magic shows, puppet shows, racing pigs, or free craft areas. Splurge on an elephant ear to share. Make memories.
County fairs are the oldest form of community celebrations. They are Americana at its finest. For all those who think nothing happens in small-town USA, you need to visit your county’s fair. Something is happening.
(The Lee Co. 4-H Fair & Jr. Show is July 28-31 at the Lee Co. 4-H Center & Fairgrounds near Amboy, IL. Stop in and say ‘hi’. Full fair schedule is available at www.leecounty4hcenter.com or follow us on facebook.)
*Photo credit to the beyond talented and generous Kimberly Wately.