It’s still summer here in Marshall, Michigan.
Just barely, however…
Yesterday’s high temperature was a meagerly 69 degrees. Today’s projected high is 64, under cloudy skies.
Last week was muggy, with temperatures in the upper 80’s. Quite a difference 6 days make around here.
Last week was also the Calhoun County Fair.
And, Wednesday was kids day.
Treasa made arrangements for us to meet her sister, Shirley, and Shirley’s mouthy grandkid, Gabby, at the fair.
Although the fairgrounds featured barns full of assorted farm animals, the gatekeepers denied me and our well-behaved Jack Russell Terrier, Ginger, entry.
While Ginger and I made our leisurely way back home, Jamel, our 14 year-old grandson, took over the party’s ‘manly’ role and everyone continued on without skipping a beat.
How easily life replaces us fallen heroes!
Despite me dragging out my return to the outer edge of Treasa’s acceptability, I was back in time to buy hot dogs, slushies, popcorn, etc. and pay for various games of chance.
Which was OK.
But the real fun was watching the girl cousins
argue negotiate which ride they were doing next.
And, let me tell you, Hilary Clinton’s got nothing on these two…
Eventually, I was pushed and pulled through every stinking, and I’m talking stinking, animal barn available.
And, there were a buncha them!
Having grown up on a small farm, with lots of ‘hands-on-interaction’ with assorted farm animals, I was understandably less impressed with the barnyard cuteness, than were my fellow fairgoers.
But, I was impressed with the number, and the quality, of activities the fair organizers offered.
Though we spent most of our 5 hours in the mid-way and rides area, these made up probably less than 20% of the total county fair experience.
The other 80% was where the traditional American County Fair was hanging out.
On which I did a little research:
Short History Of American County Fairs
- County fairs started up in early 1800’s.
- Initially, the fairs targeted rural, farm audiences.
- The fairs were designed to showcase agricultural achievements & new farming ideas. Fairs included livestock shows, contests, auctions, and featured displays of farming implements for sale.
- Between 1870 and 1910, entertainment venues were added to draw more visitors during the competitive period known as the golden age of agricultural fairs.
“Horse racing was so popular at county fairs, that by 1900, 80 of the 102 Illinois county fairs also featured trotting and pacing competitions.
Bicycle races, balloon ascensions, and eventually automobile races and airplane demonstrations were common features, while plowing matches and evening farming lectures were replaced with pyrotechnic displays…”
- The 4-H Club was primarily invented to revitalize interest in livestock and domestic arts competition among young people.
- County fair midways, or ‘carnivals’, a collection of amusements which include games of chance, sideshows, and thrilling rides, was copied from Chicago’s 1893 World Exposition Fair.
- The hookup of agricultural fairs and carnivals was an American tradition by the early 1920’s.
“Carnivals were usually considered by agricultural fair boards to be a necessary evil essential for the financial success of a fair, but ideologically contrary to the fundamental principles of the agricultural fairs, which were to educate the mainly rural fair goers and provide a venue in which farmers could show their stock…”
The majority of American counties hold their annual county fairs on public land like the grounds of a local high school.
Our county, Calhoun County, with a population of (as of 2014) 134,878, owns and maintains its own dedicated fairgrounds.
This includes the barns, general purpose community buildings, grandstands, and historical buildings like the ‘Old Maple Grove Church’, (built in 1900), etc, etc.
Finally, the Calhoun County Fair has the distinction of being Michigan’s oldest fair.
Maybe next year I’ll stick around for the tractor pull…
Until then, here’s a video I took of Bria (she’s the ‘little’ one), and her cousin Gabby, at this year’s fair:
Ideas for me, your aging related story, and your comments are always very welcome.