The county fair begins this week and for those of you who may not be planning to go, I'd reconsider. I don't really know how county fairs work in states outside the Midwest. Maybe they are better, bigger, more interesting. If so, then run don't walk to your county fair, because here in the Midwest, they are great fun!
First, they are as much a part of summer as fireflies, popsicles, sprinklers and sunscreen. Just as a barbecue on the patio or a concert in the park mark summer, so does the county fair.
I love everything about the fair. The dairy cattle barns with gigantic black and white cows with swishing tails and low strong "moos" to complain about the heat, it being dinner time, or just because. The horse barns where seeing how the young riders decorate their giant pets' stalls is as entertaining as seeing the horses themselves. In one barn, a few weeks ago in Indiana, we were amused to see an enormous horse with his head right in front of the oscillating fan, moving his giant velvet muzzle to follow the cool breeze. He was no dummy!
I love the chickens and seeing the hens with one or two or three eggs in their pens, and the rabbits in all shapes and sizes, all quiet and cute and wiggling their noses in greeting. I enjoy the goats, sometimes trying to eat the pen itself, and the hogs. Although to me they are "pigs" and not "pork bellies" and are infinitely too cute to consider eating. And smart. Once while walking through the hog barn, I saw an enormous pig open his pen and escape! Well...
I love the 4-H projects. It is amazing to see what kids choose to sew, what they decide to research, and how many different ways they can cook. Projects called "pocket pets," "laundry," "sewing for others," all of these pique my curiosity and leave me wanting to know more. Could I get a superior ribbon in laundry?
In the home arts area, I leave humbled. Pickles, jams, relishes, all perfect. Cake decorating and table-settings show impressive levels of skill, creativity and care. I enjoy seeing the knitting, the quilting, the needlework, thinking that if I only had the time, I too could do all that. And I am quite sure that I probably could not.
Perhaps most of all, I love the food. Is there anything that sums up summer more than fair food? Elephant ears, onion rings--the big, greasy, delicious kind, roasted corn on the cob, funnel cakes, lemonade made with a whole lemon right in the cup? My favorite? The 4-H milkshake, served by a team of hard-working young people volunteering for their cause. Seeing these kids work together and how much they care about a quality product, leaves one thinking that despite what today's newspaper headlines may indicate, there is still something quite right about the world.
The only thing I do not like about the county fair is that it signals the final days of summer. With the harvest and the completion of projects and of another year of 4-H, summer is about to fade into fall.
But I'll think about that another day. For now, I encourage all of you to attend one of the very best things about the Midwest. It's inexpensive and will remind you of the connection we all have to the farm and to doing for ourselves. Visit a county fair. And eat an elephant ear for me!