2018 Travel Blog

Well, I dragged David here kicking and screaming - a County Fair for goodness sake! I have been wanting to come to a County Fair ever since Susan our dear friend from Boulder in Colorado, showed me her book on Minnesota’s County Fairs and the wonderful and amazing photos she had taken.

The American county fair developed in the early nineteenth century when agricultural reformers in the northeastern United States organized local exhibitions to promote modern farming. Typical events included livestock judging, exhibits of new agricultural implements and techniques, and plowing contests.Entertainment became important as fairs competed with national expositions during what is considered the golden age of agricultural fairs between 1870 and 1910.Early in the decade of the 1900s, the Illinois Farmers' Institute began encouraging boys and girls to exhibit fair entries. The Institute began sponsoring regional and county chapters of a new national youth movement called 4-H, whose 4-leaf clover insignia with embossed H's signified the emphasis on Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. Perhaps the 4-H movement, which provided an important revitalization of livestock and domestic arts competition, was a reaction to the growing bawdiness of fairs. 4-H chapters continued to flourish in all counties into the twenty-first century, encouraging teenagers in local, county, state, and national competitions.

Anyway, here we are at the very start of the first day of Stark County Fair. 8.30am and we are the second car in the parking lot. David photographs the empty grandstand and is convinced we have the wrong day. But no, we’ve been charged $6 each to go in and going in is what we’re going to do!

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Where is everyone?

Within minutes we are both caught up in the buzz of sheep and goats being dragged, coaxed, pushed and shoved by children and teenagers in denim jeans, checked shirts and cowboy boots...not the goats and sheep...they had their own outfits.

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There must be a system. It seems the showered, shampooed and coiffed animals are to be photographed with their owners. It is very cute. We start snapping our cameras mindful that the big lenses may be off-putting. But it seems only the cattle were camera shy especially while having a blow-dry!

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These two little cuties were so proud to show off their prize winning goats to us.

Oh....and the turkeys. They were David’s all time favourite. But more on the turkeys later. We wandered the barns of beef and dairy, sheep and goats sporting the latest in lycra and dress-ups.

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It was de-rigour to have a Sullivan’s comb in the right back pocket of your jeans to fluff up the fetlocks. Oh and a packet of baby wipes to clean any little accident from under the tail. The great thing was everyone LOVED their animal and LOVED showing it.

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The Rabbit Shed was a big draw....local law enforcement was on the case....and always nice to give your calf a little scratch.

We spent the whole day wandering and watching. It was so much fun - cows, rabbits, goats, miniature things, sheep, pigs, chickens and TURKEYS! Ahhhh yes, the turkeys! David was of course fascinated here...why? Well in his youth one Christmas he was employed by Bernard Matthews the biggest turkey farm in the Uk as a "Turkey Lifter"....yep, he walked round the two weeks before Christmas lifting turkeys back on to their feet after they fell down from being so heavy...if they stayed down they would die.

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Well....their mothers loved them...and so did David!

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Prize winning chooks and their proud owners...and the No.1 turkey at the show.

The turkeys were hilarious. Judging of various categories went on for the best part of 4 hours. One judge! He was extraordinarily patient, funny and gave talks in between the judging, showed kids how to hold and present their gobbledy gobbles and to feel the parts that mattered to the judge and why this one had won a prize and this one hadn’t. He was a gem. He made it fun to learn what was important! Later in the day I found two boys in Fair uniform (jeans and checks) poring over a book on what points of a pygmy goat were being judged. It was all very serious work!

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The chicken and turkey judge was very focused...but what about that inappropriate headgear?

David managed to eat fair fare - breakfast biscuit and pulled pork burger. When I ran out of steam I headed back to Big Henry for refreshments.

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Not for The Blonde....deep fried everything...some with beautiful spray on cheese!

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See what happens when you eat all your fried veggies...!

The cakes and veggies were being studioulsy judged - again, by a single judge. And yet the “Barn Decoration” competition was judged by FOUR pen-chewing women in a golf buggy.

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The Barn Judges about their duty, a great veggie display...and, this heifer was looking for his milkshake....wrong side!

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Mr. President Potato-Head...winner of the decorated veggie competition!

I was desperate to hang on for the Pig Racing. I got there early for a good seat and waited and waited. The sawdust was being raked meticulously but no sign of a crowd and no sign of any pigs. When I asked they said it was 6pm not 3pm. A bit unfriendly too. So David had to be persuaded to hang on a bit longer. The local brass band kept us going for a while and then we saw the School Marching Bands arriving and falling out of dozens of school buses.

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They were fabulous. Great costumes, some great music and some very proud parents. David was particulalry impressed by the skils of the baton twirling young ladies...and then when the first band started their dance routine as they played...he was hooked!

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I snuck away at 6pm for the pig racing. But once again it seemed the pigs were not showing up. Instead a parade of goats - well I THINK they were goats. They were certainly stubborn like goats but looked more like pet dogs. Anyway, as cute as they were I really wanted pigs. Well, it turned out that it was still too hot for the pigs to race and maybe by 8pm they may show up. But maybe not. It was still very hot and so I went and scooped up David from the now very full grandstand and we left as the final school band was marching out of the stadium. We had had the most entertaining day....so rewarding to see families, communities and groups all coming together and having such innocent fun.

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Even Bruce & Sheila managed to get in on the act....posing here with some local volunteers from Stark Parks. 

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Amanda & David Wood

Explore, Dream & Discover

For the next five years or so we will become true earthroamers as we drive around the world.

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