I Love A County Fair


Kate 2Kate Wyland



I went to a delightful County Fair last weekend—the first in many years. Wandering through the exhibits I was reminded of how much fun they could be.

As a kid I went several times to the Los Angeles County Fair. It was huge and much more polished than the ones I encountered later, but still had the animal and farm life exhibits I loved. My main memories of it are of seeing the Budweiser Clydesdales up close and personal for the first time. I couldn’t believe how big they were—twice the size of a normal riding horse. My other vivid memory was of the pony who ripped a strip out of the front my skirt! He just reached over and tore it, and I was left desperately trying to hold it together for the rest of the day. Did not endear me to Shetlands.


After I married and we moved to the San Francisco Bay area, Hubs and I used to go to the Santa Clara County Fair. It was smaller and much less fancy than LA, more typical of real fairs. Even though part of the growing Silicon Valley, Santa Clara still had large rural areas, so we saw lots of 4-H animals of all sorts, lovingly tended, bathed and brushed to look their best. Cooking, crafts and farming exhibits filled several halls and the race track had a 4-H horse show going during the day. There were carnival rides, of course, and music in the grandstand in the evening—in general, a fun, laid-back experience.


Unfortunately, over the years as the character of the area changed, so did the Fair. The animals and farming exhibits grew fewer, and the barkers selling mostly junk took over the exhibit halls. The carnival came to dominate everything and teenagers looking for trouble gradually pushed out families. If I remember correctly, they actually closed the fair one year. It is still put on but in a much smaller scale than in the past. We haven’t gone to it in many years, so don’t know how successful it is.

cotton candy

We did, however, find another, smaller fair with a more rural flavor and used to go that one off and on. While the Santa Cruz County Fair has an impressive antique farm equipment exhibit with demonstrations of how they work, their animal exhibits are limited to small animals—rabbits, chicken and other fowl. No 4-H sheep, goats, pigs or cows, which I find rather sad. I know 4-H groups are still active in the area and wish they had the chance to show off their accomplishments.

ferris wheel

The Alameda County Fair that we went to last weekend was a mixture of the old style and new. It had a nice laid-back feel with some animals and craft exhibits from the schools, as well as a huge model train display that was simply amazing. It also had a large carnival and lots of stuff for sale, and, of course, music for the young folk in the evening. It must be quite successful since it goes on for two weeks—unusual for our area.

How about you? Do you ever go to county fairs? Do you like the animals or the exotic things on sale? How about the pig races?


photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/27190564@N02/20844921678">Ferris Wheel</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/27190564@N02/20875376279">Don't interrupt my lunch</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/96228372@N06/19984261526">County Fair</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/27190564@N02/20940758282">Charlie and Bryan</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>




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21 thoughts on “I Love A County Fair

  1. Not only use to go to county fairs, I covered them as a newspaper reporter in Central Ohio and NE North Carolina. At the Washington County Fair in Ohio, as a teen I’d go with buddies and cruise the midway looking at girls. I recall one midway game we played… tossing plugged nickels at dishes, cups, glasses and plates. If your plugged nickel land in or on one, you got it as a prize. At the Fairfield County Fair in Ohio, I’d walk through the various barns and look at the livestock and the baked goods… so much a throwback to earlier days of America. One year I headed fair coverage for the local Lancaster newspaper and remember covering the auctions for animals raised by the 4-H kids… steers and hogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How neat to be able to combine your work with something fun. I’d bet that Ohio fairs would have a lot of animals and farm basics. The midways were always fun. Loved the games more than the rides, though. Thanks for reminding me.


  2. Our county fair was a regular event for us, but then it changed its name to the West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition and they seemed to change everything. It’s almost all junk vendors and the part that I enjoyed, the livestock, is now on the far side of the road from the rest of the fair. You have to take a shuttle to go see them. So we haven’t been back in years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the fairs definitely have a different emphasis nowadays, particularly the big ones. The animals just aren’t as important. At least at the one last weekend the junk vendors weren’t as noticeable. There were local artisan booths instead. That was a nice change.


  3. The nearest we get to your fairs in NE Scotland would be our Highland Shows. They have a fun mixture of animal husbandry exhibits, stalls selling goods and fairground areas. There’s also live music these days with a ceilidh dance in the evening. Last year I hired a stall and sold my books and I’ll be at a few fairs this summer as well touting my ‘authorial’ wares. Down near Edinburgh there is the Royal Highland Show that’s the biggest in Scotland. I’ve been before and it’s huge, but not for many years. The fairs you mention sound fabulous. I confess to being a bit confused about what the term 4-H animals are. Does it mean bigger than 4 hands high? (She asks cluelessly)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 4-H is a youth program. THE 4-HS

      Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are the four Hs in 4-H, and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs.

      Head – Managing, Thinking
      Heart – Relating, Caring
      Hands – Giving, Working
      Health – Being, Living

      I remember doing sewing projects and cooking projects in the 4H. We didn’t have an active Girl Scout Troup, so that was as close as we could get. It was fun. I didn’t raise any animals for a 4-H project. The Salvation Army has girls and boys programs too, Girl Guards,and Adventurers, but you don’t hear much about those programs.

      The 4-H husbandry projects are a big part of the State Fairs in the US. The last fair I went to was in Washington County (like Mike), and my Granddaughter was in Cheer and they performed there.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Your fairs sound pretty similar, though maybe missing the rides and midway games.
      Cherley explained about 4-H. The funny thing is even though I had horses, I never encountered 4-H in my area. But my thoroughly suburban hubby did electrical projects through a group in his area, 🙂


  4. Oh the memories your post brought back. I used to do the 4-H thing, just not the animals. The fair was small, but fun. Of course the Illinois state fair was the thing while I was growing up. It was one of the largest in the nation at the time and lots of fun. Like the fair you last went to, it contained all of the above. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We went to the CA State Fair many years back. That was enormous! And state champion animals were totally different from the local ones. Never saw such huge dairy cows. We might just go again this summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever been to a county fair. I’m sure I went to the OC Fair when I was little but I don’t remember it. I think if I did go, I’d be drawn to the animals first and then the rides.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve not gone to many county fairs, but they are certainly “big time” in Wyoming! as is the State Fair. I don’t care much for the crowds or loud noises, and rides are NOT my thing. But, the animals are, so when I do go, that’s what I gravitate to… and occasionally the music. Rodeo is BIG, BIG here in Wyoming, and it’s something I DO NOT LIKE (I find rodeos cruel to animals and wish they would be banned all together … therefore, my views are not popular where I live so I generally stay put at home or at my cabin where it’s peaceful, quiet, and lacks humans). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Usually I feel the same about crowds and noise, but haven’t encountered large crowds in the most recent fairs I’ve gone to. Definitely not into the rides. I can imagine that not liking rodeo would make you an outsider in WY. I’m not fond of it because the energy is wrong. Even though the animals aren’t mistreated and actually live pretty cushy lives, it’s not the way I like to see them handled. Occasionally one gets hurt, but it’s usually the cowboys who get the worst of it. The non-sanctioned events are the ones I object to. They don’t follow RCA rules and that can be a problem.


  7. I now go to the Washakie county fair each year with grandkids who show goats and sheep and this year pigs. It sadly seems to be getting smaller as 4-H which is responsible for most of the animals and crafts is shrinking. There isn’t a carnival but their are food stands, a band, and some jumper houses and pig wrestling. So the community turns out pretty well and it seems like an old fashioned fair. We quit going to the one in Casper as it is more carnival then anything, plus rodeo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your fair sounds delightful, like they used to be. It is sad that 4-H is fading, but I guess everything changes. It’s nice that your grandkids get a chance to experience it.


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