Written by Carol Beaver, Church Advocate, Legacy Coalition
August has its share of holidays; some of them are unique, but no major holidays grace the month. However, when I think about August, fairs immediately come to mind.
During late summer and early fall, all across the country, counties and states celebrate their unique culture at “the fair.” Every state has at least one state fair or annual state exhibition during the year.
In the past, every five years there would be a World’s Fair which would occasionally be hosted somewhere in the USA.
Many cities host special fairs honoring some part of their heritage. Northfield, Minnesota hosts “Defeat of Jesse James Days” annually to celebrate the thwarting of Jesse James’ attempt to rob the local bank. In conjunction with this event, there is a juried arts and crafts fair.
County and state fairs began as agricultural exhibitions where farmers could show their pride in their animals and crops. Animal shows and competitions determined the best of the best.
Which steer would win the Grand Prize? Whose sheep had the best wool? Each farm animal from the traditional to the exotic had their special show and the best were awarded coveted purple ribbons.
Growing up, I eagerly awaited the Olmsted County Fair. At first, the draw of the fair was the carnival midway. The sound of the midway spread across the entire fairgrounds as the screams of delight from atop the Ferris Wheel wafted through the air.
I was scared of the height of the Ferris wheel, but after the first ride, I wanted to go back again and again. My mom and dad would let me go on a few rides and try my hand at winning the games of skill like throwing bean bags or darts to win a stuffed animal.
I was always disappointed when they were ready to move on to the exhibits throughout the fairgrounds. My dad liked to see all the produce that gardeners and farmers brought, hoping to win a coveted purple ribbon. Mom browsed the domestic exhibits looking at sewing and food preservation.
They probably did not stay as long as they would have liked because I got restless. Occasionally, we would have dinner and then go to the grandstand show, usually harness racing, but occasionally my dad and I would see stock car races.
My personal appreciation of the fair changed when I joined 4-H. The midway was still an attraction, but I became an exhibitor of projects in sewing and cooking.
One year, the required food product was sugar cookies made from the official recipe. Unfortunately, my summer Bible Camp was scheduled the week before the fair began and the recipe was not available. The exhibits had to be ready on the day camp was over.
I made my mom’s recipe but realized the taste wasn’t great. I had forgotten the salt. There was no time to make more, so I shook a little salt on each cookie, put them on the required plate, and took them to my 4-H leader who later took them in on the required day. Then, I traveled to camp.
When I returned home and headed to the fair, I did not hurry to see my ribbon. I just hoped it was not white, or even worse, no ribbon. Imagine my surprise to see two blue ribbons meaning only two other plates of cookies were deemed better by the judges.
Fairs took a backseat for a few years, and then I became a mom. We always went to the county fair wherever we were living. My daughter loved the midway rides and the games of chance, too.
Most of all though, she was excited about interacting with the animals, both large and small. We always checked out the domestic exhibits, enjoying and critiquing the handiwork. Because they were county fairs, we often knew the people who exhibited.
Cotton candy, funnel cakes, greasy fries, and hamburgers from a food truck continued the fair traditions I had learned.
Going to the fair ebbed and flowed as she got older, and I grew busier. She married and moved a few times. She became a mom and visited during fair-time with her girls.
The cycle began again, and traditions were reestablished. Mimi and Mom watched two little girls pet huge animals and hold tiny little chicks to their cheeks. We found out funnel cakes really were good, and that the Teddy Bear band made us want to dance.
The smell of the barns became the backdrop to the most enjoyable parts. The girls even found out it was just as much fun to be with the animals as being on the midway, though we always had to try to win a stuffed animal.
I went to the New York World’s Fair in the 60s. One of the new technologies introduced that year was Videotelephony which allowed users in different locations to communicate with video and audio in real-time; they used a videophone.
Riding the “It’s a Small World” prototype and hearing that song before it got to all the Disney Worlds is a strong memory.
Hopefully, these memories and comments will resonate with you. My generational fair stories are special, but you have stories, too, maybe about going to the fair, or going on vacation, or camping, or Grandma camps.
Every succeeding generation adds new memories and, sadly, also loses some memories.
We made memories for three generations. My granddaughters remember parts of going to the fair, and they know the story of the unsalted cookies.
As intentional Christian grandparents, we can use so many experiences to bond with our grandchildren and make special memories. Going to the fair opened opportunities to share life and relationships with the generations.
Even when they do not remember something, they love to hear the stories. The relationships provide a foundation for sharing our most important one – the relationship with Jesus.