By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist
County fairs are under way now, and the big state fairs are not far off. This tradition includes almost every state as well as many other countries. It all began as a way for people to compare their livestock, vegetables, etc., with those grown by their neighbors.
Small towns, many struggling to stay alive, are vibrant again during fair week. There’s often a kickoff parade, and usually a rodeo. It’s a chance to see and visit with old friends as well as to check out their livestock and to show off yours.
FFA and 4-H youngsters enter their various projects in the county contests. If they place highly enough, they can take their entries to the state fair — a real honor. Their exhibits range from jelly and jam to photography to quilts, sewing and fiber art and all kinds of arts and crafts in between.
One of my daughters got to take her peach jam to the state fair one year. I don’t remember whether she won anything there, but she was thrilled to see “her” jam on exhibit.
Adults compete also. My mom, a great cook, used to take her breads and other baked goods — and win. She kept those ribbons, too.
The livestock projects aren’t required to earn their trip to the state fair by way of the county fair. They can just enter. They are the most time-consuming projects, and require more — a LOT more — work. Those animals end up involving the whole family, and often the county agent as well.
The youngsters receive much advice, some good, some not so much. Advice might include: That steer needs to walk more, and slow down his feed a little; that goat needs his feet trimmed; those lambs need some extra grain this week, but less hay, and make them run a bit more to build up their muscles.
By the time a 4-H or FFA member is 16 or 17 years old, he/she can be advisers themselves for the younger exhibitors. Remember, we’re really raising kids. The animals are just helping us out.
I have no memory of a fair in which nothing went wrong. Often the problem was minor, but sometimes it was major. If an animal upchucks on the youngster’s fancy show shirt (and the youngster is a girl) it’s difficult to decide which is worse — the sick animal or the messed-up shirt. Young girls are much more “dramatic” than boys.
A sick animal? Everybody there has a “sure cure” in their tack boxes — maybe.
When every exhibit has been turned in and work with the animals is done for awhile, there’s time to “walk around.” The wonderful smells have been calling.
The idea of healthful foods is out the window during the fair. Funnel cakes, corn dogs, deep fried Twinkies, cotton candy and all kinds of pastries and pies dominate the menus. Weird-shaped fried potatoes, deep fried pickles, and the grand champion of decadence — fried candy bars — all need sampling.
When I complained about that, one of my daughters said, “That’s the whole point of the fair, Mom. You’re missing it.”