Community Connections: What is a county fair?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Fair season in Arkansas is fast approaching. The first Arkansas fair is currently underway in Independence County, July 16-21 followed by Fulton County, July 23-28. Sharp County Fair is July 31-Aug. 4 and Izard County Fair is Aug. 6-11. Fairs in our area are governed by local boards who volunteer their time to have the fair and use volunteers to run the competitions and events.

A county fair is a local event often held in the late summer or early fall. Fairs give communities a chance to show off their unique habits and talents and can be a wonderful expression of a countyís personality. For long time residents, the county fair can be a nostalgic event, bringing back memories of Ferris wheels and cotton candy past, and giving them a chance to introduce younger generations to a great tradition.

Many county fairs have specialized events or exhibitions of local items. In farming towns or counties with a significant agricultural base, the fair may offer contests for the biggest produce, the best flowers or hardiest livestock. Agricultural groups like 4-H and FFA often encourage members to enter their livestock, teaching a new generation about the values of farming and quality agricultural work. Other events, like rodeos, truck and tractor pulls, pit contestants against one another, bringing fame and sometimes fortune to the winner, as well as entertainment to the crowd.

In addition to agricultural displays, county fairs often include arts and crafts exhibitions or contests. These displays may cover a wide variety of artistic mediums, from painting and photography to sculpture, quilt making and ornamental woodwork. If you are visiting your county fair, take some time to look over the displays of your local community; not only will you come away with a better sense of the talent around you, you may find a favorite artist or artisan to contact for future work.

For many people, the defining characteristic of a county fair is the carnival. Although not as elaborate as Disneyland or as thrill-seeking as a heavy duty roller coaster park, the carnival rides are usually enough to induce screams and shouts of delight. Many carnival midways will also feature various games of skill, usually providing the rare winners with a stuffed animal large enough to guard your house. If you are concerned about the games being less-than-fair, try out ones that pit competitors against each other, rather than just against the odds.

County fair food is usually fragrant, fattening and often fried. This is the day to throw your diet out the door and chow down on a corn dog. Some fairs make a habit of deep frying more and more ridiculous items, including candy bars, soft drinks and peanut butter sandwiches. The county fair may be no friend to your calorie counting, but it is a once a year event. Try out the food vendors and see what they offer and enjoy yourself; just donít ride the roller coaster directly after eating three deep fried Twinkies and a gallon of lemonade.

Bringing locals together for a celebration of their community is a great plan, and offers something for everyone. Whether guiding a youngster onto the kiddy rides, sneaking a first kiss on the tilt-a-whirl, or watching your next-door neighbor win the gold in a pie-baking contest, attending the fair is a unique experience that can really bring out the best in your local area. So mark your calendars for a day at the fair; the carnival is calling, and thereís some cotton candy with your name on it.

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