Back in the 1970s, I enjoyed going to the county fair and playing the midway games like the nickel toss, hoping one of the nickels I would gently toss would end up in a glass and bring me a win. Sometimes they did, but oftentimes they didn’t. I generally avoided the too-loud “barkers,” who insisted I try my luck at their stands. Too many of the games seemed rigged.
The county fair always kicked off on a Wednesday, and that evening showcased a rock band. As a teenager, this was new to me, and I thought it was cool. I would go with friends and family, and I would often spot familiar faces around the stage. The music was good, and it was so loud the ground vibrated under my feet.
We visited the fair on different days, and often over the weekend. Going to the fair in the daylight made it easier to see friends and neighbors, and it was always a fun summertime reunion of sorts — and it still is.
The carnival rides were never on my “favorites” list. In fact, I have always avoided them. I never liked the too-fast motion, and the rides always seemed expensive. My children, though, loved the rides, clear back to when they were little and rode the simple and slow mini boats or cars, complete with child-size steering wheels. Of course, they later graduated to the thrill rides, where they would laugh and scream as they whizzed past, sometimes upside down, at breakneck speed as my husband and I watched. We always made sure they ate after they were finished riding the rides, and never before.
One of my favorite areas of the county fair is the craft building. The entries are quite creative, and they always inspire me to try something new. I’m amazed by the detailed paintings people enter, and the flower arrangements — despite the summer heat and consequential wilt — are nothing less than gorgeous.
Our youngest son spent several years in 4-H, so fair time meant the 4-H building was a favorite place to be, as we admired his exhibits as well as those of his peers. He put a lot of work into his projects, and he collected some well-deserved medals; he even advanced to the state fair a few times.
Freebies are another attraction at the county fair. I’ve seen everything from bandages to stickers to some tasty and healthy recipes at the various booths and tents.
Although I know nothing about the various chicken, horse and rabbit breeds, I still have to visit those penned critters every year. The horses are my favorite — beautifully groomed, but big, so I admire them from a distance. And let’s not forget the petting zoo, which I love every bit as much as the children do.
Last but certainly not least is the delicious fair food. Making the rounds through the fairgrounds, we can’t walk past the 4-H food stand without grabbing a hamburger and fries — I can almost smell them now. We do try to have a little self-control, but the delectable aroma of the variety of fair food kicks up an appetite every time.
The five days of the county fair are a miniature vacation and a great escape from the everyday summer routine — and there’s always the thrill of going again next year!
Belle Plaine, Minnesota
Read more stories of fun fair times in County Fair Memories.