Back in the heyday of family farms, fairs were a celebration of the harvest, a place to showcase what the year had produced, to learn new things and socialize. Competitions for the best produce, canned and baked goods, as well as crafts and livestock judging were serious endeavors and carrying home the blue ribbon was a prestige sought by many. A prize-winning cow or draft horse would fetch a higher price, as would its offspring or stud service. Seeds were exchanged or promised, all improving the productivity of community farms.
While the number of family farms has dwindled drastically in the past several decades, there are still those families, who, despite the hardships, hang on to a way of life that dates back generations.
I love to visit the exhibition halls filled with handmade quilts, knitted crafts, floral arrangements, displays of shiny apples, baskets of fresh vegetables and rows of canned goods from applesauce, corn, pickles, peaches to tomato sauce.
Youth competitions for pampered heifers, washed and trimly shorn, are sweet to watch as the kids parade their animals before the judges, who consider the animal and its handler. Rows of rabbits, exotic chickens, ducks and geese are always fun to visit. The variety is remarkable from small to large, white and buff to black, smooth to frilly.
I particularly enjoy seeing the draft horses drawing weighted sleds. These magnificent Belgians, gentle giants bred for farm work, eagerly lunge as soon as they hear the click of the metal ring attaching them to the sled.
Then there is the Midway and the food vendors. We no longer have young children so the carnival rides no longer appeal, but it’s fun to watch the young families enjoying the rides and games.
A clown riding a little tractor pulling a bubble machine plied the aisles, collecting a following of young, delighted children like the Pied Piper.
Even the kids have a pedal-tractor draw pulling bricks in sleds.
Despite the tempting smell of fried food, we manage to avoid the fried dough and onion rings (okay, I did give in and buy French fries doused with vinegar) and ate lunch at the church-sponsored booth. Even though the tuna sandwich on whole wheat seemed a healthy choice, I succumbed to the fresh peach shortcake for dessert!
It turned out to be even more fun than I remembered and we ended up staying later than I thought we would.
And who knows, maybe next year I might enter some of my flower arrangements and dilled-bean pickles to see if I can’t bring home a blue ribbon prize!