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Support your local county fair.

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Local News, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 at 9:09 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

Photo courtesy Jack Delano, a county fair in Georgia Taken in October 1941.

Photo courtesy Jack Delano, a county fair in Georgia Taken in October 1941.

As summer winds down, county fairs are an institution prominent since the middle 19th Century. For some families, the county fair is the highlight of the summer. It represents the culmination of the agricultural year in crops, livestock, and education.

As I was growing up, the fair signaled the end of summer and provided what was, for lack of a better description, my vacation. I spent my summers in 4-H, working on every type of project from beef cattle and bicycle rodeos to first aid and rocketry. The weeks leading up to the fair were always packed with activity for me and the benefits are farther reaching than just the immediate event.

Most regional organizations exhibit at the fair including Boy and Girl Scouts, Rotary and Grange, and, most notably for youth, 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). The junior fair events were designed to showcase these organizations and meet the needs of farm families to help provide educational opportunities.

What most children love is the opportunity to get close to live farm animals. Youth exhibitors have their livestock boarded at the fair through the week either awaiting show times or auction. During that time, visitors can see and often pet the animals, with the permission of the owners, and ask questions about them.

While strongly focused on rural interests, the fair isn’t only about farming. Music and variety entertainment is in no short supply on the fairground. Multiple stages and grandstand events offer everything from local garage bands to big-name entertainers. And those with an artistic eye have plenty to see as well!

While some people might believe that the only artwork to be seen at a county fair consists of macaroni pictures, they’d be incredibly wrong. If it’s art you’re interested in, some of the most amazing hand crafted artwork hangs on the display walls at the fair. Fine art buildings on the fairground become temporary museums to local artisanship.

Anyone may submit for judging hand artwork, needlepoint, quilting, photography, pottery and a myriad of other artistic work. Contestants need not be part of the 4-H, FFA or other organized groups, in order to enter. The resulting exhibits are diverse and eye-catching, on display from hobbyist and professional alike, judged equally.

Those familiar with the PBS series, “Antiques Roadshow,” might enjoy a tour of the antiques exhibit. Each year, the fair hosts a contest of antiques from every category, including glass, metals, wood and rare items. As with art, the exhibitors are local residents, hoping for a little notoriety out of a family heirloom or favorite antique or collectable – all on display for the enjoyment of the patrons.

Strolling through all of these exhibits, visitors may notice colored ribbons. Each one represents the achievement level of the participant in his or her category of judging. The awards may not be the ultimate goal, but for someone who plans on a career in livestock demonstrating an award-winning history can go a long way towards securing a professional establishment later.

But the fair is certainly not just for the exhibitors. What good is all this effort if no one comes to visit? Offering everything from food and rides to shows and educational opportunities, the family entertainment value of the county fair is tough to beat.

Generally, admission runs under $10 for adults, less for kids, seniors and veterans, and weekly passes are often available at a discounted rate. Often, the gate ticket allows access to everything on the grounds, although there is generally an additional fee for high-profile grandstand events.

My home fair in Greene County, Ohio, opens July 31 this year and runs until the following Saturday. Having started in 1839, it is has moved locations several times, but remains the longest running county fair west of the Alleghenies. If you’re in the area, check it out. You can learn more at greenecountyfairgrounds.com.

If you have a county fair near you, take the time to spend the afternoon there this year. In addition to getting a great day of family-oriented fun, you are supporting the local community. Get out and enjoy the fair.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

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