Thursday, June 13, 2013

All's FAIR!

Ahh, the fair! One of the highlights of the summer, amiright?! The fun carnival rides, the animals, the booths, the shows, the FAIR FOOD! What more could you ask for on a hot summer night? Nothing, that's what!

While most fair attendees are there for the fun, the purpose of the fair is far greater than funnel cakes and fried Twinkies.  Fairs began long, long, loooonnnngggg ago as temporary markets for merchants to come together to sell exotic goods from foreign countries.  They eventually took on a religious tone when the
church would host fairs in conjunct
ion with feast days.

Fried twinkie

The first fair in the Americas took place in 1765 in Windsor, Novia Scotia, and is still taking place today! Agricultural fairs, like the ones that take place around the United States today, were created by Elkanah Watson, from the New England area, by organizing the Berkshire Agricultural Society and creating an event (known then as a Cattle Show) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in September 1811. It was more than just an exhibit of animals – it was a competition, with prize money ($70) paid for the best exhibits of oxen, cattle, swine and sheep.

By 1819 most counties in the Northeast had organized their own agricultural societies and the movement was spreading into the other states. By the end of the 1800's, almost every state and county was hosting one or more agricultural fairs or exhibitions.

County fairs are held by almost every county in the U.S.A. County fairs are typically smaller and much more agriculturally-focused, with the emphasis on the livestock and 4-H and FFA programs. Most participants must live within the boundaries of that county in order to enter livestock or other items. Additionally, the livestock at county fairs are typically all from 4-H or FFA participants, not from professional or amateur breeders. Regional and state fairs bring together people from across that region or area, and are huge, with lots of great things to see and do! They offer a bigger range of contests, exhibits, shows, and also hold livestock contests for participants not in     4-H or FFA ("open" classes).  The basic elements of those agricultural society events of the early 1800s are at the heart of the over 3,200 agricultural fairs in North America today. Competition for the best agricultural and domestic products of the county or state are held annually at each fair.

Fairs also have an educational purpose, with exhibits, shows, demonstrations and much more.
Special emphasis is placed on educational activities such as 4-H, FFA and similar youth
4-Hers showing their pigs
development programs. They also retain their very origional merchant purpose with booths selling an array of items, food stands, carnival rides, and livestock auctions. Mix all this together and you get an awesome-good time!

Fairs are a great way to learn about farming and agriculture in your state, and to see the wide range of programs and products that are in place to promote agriculture. Fair season is upon us, so use the search tool below to find fairs in your area! You'll have a super-fun time being part of the fair crowd, and if you check out all the exhibits and pavilions, you'll learn some really interesting things to boot!

So, look around your community, and try to find out when is your county or regional fair.  Check it out, go see the pigs and the chickens, the lambs and the kids.  Check out the flower arranging and photo competitions.  Observe and admire the farmers' crop contests - perfect hay bales, beautiful potatoes, giant pumpkins.  Join in a cow milking contest.  See the tractor pull competition and the horse show.  Eat a corn dog with some fresh squeezed lemonaide, and enjoy the American tradition of the country fair!

What do you look forward to at the fair each year?  Please share in the comments!
We'd like to hear about it!

To find a fair in your area, use this handy-dandy search tool:

Information for this article was taken from the website of the Internatioal Association of Fairs and Expositions:

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