Several years ago our community resumed an old tradition – the county fair. It had been discontinued for several years, but a group of civic minded (and agriculture supporting) leaders decided to bring it back. It has been a big success, setting record crowds year after year. It has become a marker for the end of summer, and the beginning of harvest, and of school, and of cooler weather.
However, held the first week of August each year, it has often been so hot that it was hard to imagine even a nighttime stroll down the midway. And our household finds this a busy time with school starting back and annual meetings in my husband’s company. So, all that to say, we had not ever been to the county fair. The lure of the ferris wheel lights has called to us from the interstate, but the line of traffic has kept us away.
This year however was different. The weather is strangely cooler this summer, and we found ourselves home from the lake one weekend with a few hours to spare. So off to the fair we went. We drooled over the prize winning foods, admired the beautiful quilts and other handwork, listened to the 4-H cake auction, marveled at how the rides seemed smaller than we remembered them from years gone by, and enjoyed watching people along the way.
There were funnel cakes, frozen lemonade, and even cotton candy. And there were games of skill where we could have won (?) a giant monkey. But we passed all those by. We didn’t even play skee ball, which is one of my childhood favorites. But it was fun being surrounded by all those childhood memories.
One exhibit caught our eye but we passed it by the first time because it was set up as a hands-on walk-through for children to experience farm life. Thank goodness we went back and had fun watching others’ children pick apples, shell corn, and pet the animals. Everyone who goes to the fair agrees that this is the best area for all ages to participate in.
As we were leaving we walked by the show ring and saw that calves were being shown then by teen agers. It was fascinating. This world was foreign to me- the clean and brushed calves, the children in western attire and working cowboy boots, the belly-scratching poles used to keep the animals complacent as they stood still. I was enthralled by the way those showing kept their eyes constantly on the judge in the center of the ring (possibly to prove they could handle the animal without looking at it?) Quite a crowd had gathered so we settled in, standing behind the fence, in rapt attention.
It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, though. Once I saw the first class and understood what the judge was looking for, I picked the winner the next several times. My husband, who has far more agricultural background and knowledge than I do, was amazed. “But it’s about the showmanship,” I told him. Sometimes I had the blue ribbon chosen as soon as they all walked into the ring. I told him what I was noticing and he started to catch on as well.
I did miss the call on the last one, though. I was trying so hard to pick between two girls that were both talented yet each with their own drawback that I missed the real winner. And he was probably the most impressive of all the rounds. His calf was twice as big as him, yet he had the style and the heart to show who was really in control.
I hope we get to go back to the fair next year. I will check the schedule for the show ring when we first go through the gate.