The All-American County Fair

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We went to the Northwest Washington Fair a couple of weeks ago, and no – I did not ride on the Ring of Fire.

Instead, I went straight to see the piglets in the big petting barn next to the Swine Barn. How can it be, I wondered as I turned in my ticket and walked through the gate, that some wonderful sow is ready to give us a new set of piglets just in time for the fair each year? Thank you, sows of Northwest Washington!

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We took along my sister-in-law and niece who were visiting from their home in Hermosillo, Mexico, and we planned their visit specifically so we could show them the quintessential American event: the county fair. Though some people prefer state fairs, I like mine a bit smaller, more regional, like this:

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Oh, my gosh, that’s Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, isn’t it?

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I like looking for names I recognize on the quilts or the flower & canned goods (especially peaches and pickles) displays.

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I love to see how inventive kids are when they make their “vegetable critters.”

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Each year I vote for my favorite display of kids’ collections (legos galore, model horses, matchbox cars, dolls, beer bottle caps) and I vote for the local grange displays. This year we saw a corn stalk that measured 14-feet tall. Bravo! Corn is very big on my list of Why the World is Wonderful. The countryside of Whatcom County, Washington, where I live, is covered with corn fields (that is, where it’s not covered with raspberry fields. And blueberry fields…) A drive out into the country to find a corn stand can be pretty breathtaking.

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We live in real county-fair territory….

I sometimes agree but often disagree with the judges about which item was awarded Best of Show (Big Purple Ribbons, Big Red-White-and-Blue Ribbons!) in just about every category under the sun. And I’m always touched by how eager and devoted the 4-H kids seem to be to their animals and their chores.

This year we paid special attention to the horses, since my niece has three of her own and is learning to jump with them. We saw barrel racing, saw the judged 4-H horse jumping, and were struck dumb by the size of the Clydesdales when you’re standing right next to them.

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I like staying as long as humanly possible, but at least from midday until the sun goes down and the carny rides light up and the food begins to smell divine. We eat without any attention to what’s healthy for the long term, and without any regard to “a balanced meal.” To follow the Charlotte’s Web thread, we pig out on….

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Kettlecorn…

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…and curly fries…

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…and corn-on-the-cob…

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…and hot dogs…

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Anything with whipped cream and berries gets our attention, but….

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…”Chocolate-Covered Bacon”? Maybe too much, even for us….

Garth Williams knew exactly how a person (or a pig…or a rat) feels after a day at the fair:

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When the fair begins….

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…and when it’s time to go home!

I’m not a true flag-waving patriot most of the time. Maybe I’m an ACLU and League-of-Women-Voters-style patriot. My neighbor, a sweet guy, flies an American flag most of the year, while I fly a Bellingham flag with symbols on it which stand for for two Native American tribes, one saltwater bay, a waterfall, and four towns which eventually became the town we live in. So the red-white-and-blue is not quite as appealing to me as the green-white-and-blue. But when it comes to showing my family from Mexico around, giving them an experience I consider truly American, the county fair is the way I wave a flag. You might call me a county-fair patriot.

Now that our guests have gone, I’ve got some quiet time, and I’m looking for a good book to read. I think I’ll get out my old and battered copy of Charlotte’s Web.  If “Write what you know”  is good advice for writers, I’m sure E.B. White knew a few fairs, as did Garth Williams – they had county fairs (and the people who head for the Swine Barn first) all figured out.

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‘All morning, people wandered past Wilbur’s pen. Dozens and dozens of strangers stopped to stare at him and to admire his silky white coat, his curly tail, his kind and radiant expression.” (Charlotte’s Web)

 

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6 responses to “The All-American County Fair

  1. Thank you for this delightful walk-about your county fair. It is a book, a poem, a delicious experience – our hopes for America. I am heading to the Minnesota Fair to be “author of the day” in the Alphabet Forest. Maybe I will try some of those butter-fired cheese curds … or maybe not.

  2. My favorite attendee at the fair was Templeton – ah – the pleasures of the feast.

  3. I got to visit the Fair through your words, Julie. My favorite are the hens and roosters. I love all the different plumage.

  4. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia

    Those Clydesdales look magnificent! I love the way their mighty legs splay out beneath the knee – I think we all looked a bit like them in the 1970s – with our groovy flared jeans!

  5. Love this, Julie! I was at a County Fair myself last night — in Northampton, Mass. I somehow resisted the deep-fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. . . .

  6. Fabulous! You captured my feelings exactly from my experience of the local fair on Friday evening! Thank you! One special moment for me this year was witnessing the gentle oxwoman’s care of her dear, big creature with the long white horns.
    Celeste McQuarrie, New Hampshire

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