August 12, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Fair time is fair game for fun

Had your fill of elephant ears yet? Twirled yourself sick on the midway rides? And, how about those giant hogs, so fat they can’t even stand up?

It all goes to prove, if one fair event doesn’t grab your attention, another will. County or state fairs are something wonderful to experience, distinctly American phenomena and tributes to our agrarian past. You don’t have to be a member of 4-H or Future Farmers of America to enjoy them.

Some fairgoers come to see the animals, but personally I prefer looking at the people. They’re a lot stranger and less predictable. I must admit, though, that you don’t see many albino people with pink eyes like the rabbits on display, or anyone as hefty as those 5,000-pound boars.

Not usually, unless you count the other kind of “bore” who appears among the fair entrants now and then, insisting that his entry was better than the next guy’s. Or “boars” too, for that matter, as in “pig.” It seems the 300-pound human animals are always the ones carrying around 36-ounce cups of Coke, heaping paper plates full of fried chicken or mountains of greasy curly fries.

The guys who participate in the truck and tractor pulls are usually pretty hefty, too. I guess they have to be, considering all that horsepower, that grinding of gears and churning of dirt. Maybe they just look menacing to match their vehicles.

As do some of the young men trying to impress young ladies with their tattoos and shaved heads, instead of the pompadour hairdos and gold chains of yore. But, human nature never changes, so the girls are also busy trying to impress the boys with skimpy tank tops and the flouncing of hair.

City kids viewing the animal exhibits are fun to watch, too. They appear surprised to learn that milk doesn’t come initially from a plastic carton, or that hamburger used to be part of a cow. Even breakfast bacon and eggs had their start as part of the anatomy of a pig and some prospective chicks. On second thought, maybe those kids would rather stay ignorant.

And chickens! Who knew they come in such dramatic colors and plumage, such fierce claws and sometimes, fancy anklets of feathers. Fairs last about a week, and it takes at least that long to take in all these animals, plus the horses and cows and whatever else lives on a farm somewhere.

Whether they’re savvy about the ways of nature or not, all children know about fun. Local, affordable amusement parks are largely a thing of the past, so kids spend many hours and dollars on fair rides, roller coasters, bumper cars and other carnival attractions.

In short, the fair is a great place for kids to learn about life, and not only because of the pigs or goats they raise for 4-H. They also learn to be creative and competitive, but in a good way. They show off their pets and other things, from brownies they’ve baked and fresh vegetables they’ve grown, to beloved collections of Elvis memorabilia.

Life is not as simple as it was when fairs first appeared, nor even as it was when the movie, State Fair, came out in the 1940s. But, surprise! surprise! Some truths are not relative, including the graces we find in nature and in the best efforts of God’s people.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


Local site Links: