The Fair Brings Memories, Fun

When I say I am getting ready for the fair I probably have a different way of doing it than most people. This past week I made a batch of granola, a batch of snack mix, two kinds of cookies and stocked up on fresh fruit. The part that is probably different is that I make most things I stock my camper with.

My daughter-in-law cooked a big turkey one day. We picked the bones clean and packaged up the turkey to take to the fair. What I took I made into turkey noodle soup. It is certainly cool enough that warm food will taste good.

My grandson asked me how come I was not entering anything this year. I told him that when his sister began to show animals at the fair that was the end of entering things for me. When my children were in 4-H I did not enter things either.

This is the first year for that grandson to show a calf. I was really surprised when he told me he was joining the 4-H group. He has been old enough for several years but never had the interest until this year. He said, “Grandma, it will be different this year. I will have to get up early and go to the barn to take care of my calf, too.”

Seeing the grandchildren participate in the dairy shows certainly brings back memories. My son and daughter showed calves for several years. They gave it up when mom had to go back to college to keep her teaching certification current. It was just too hard at that point to work with the animals and get everything ready.

In those days we did not camp at the fair. We did not have a camper and we did not have a spot. Every day we went back and forth to feed and groom the animals. The night before the 4-H show we slept in the barn. There was a large loft on each end of the barn so the girls slept in one and the boys took the other. The night before the show was a good night to chaperone. The kids were busy getting their animals ready to show so there was no time for fooling around. Really, that was a wonderful group of boys and girls so parents did not really worry very much.

The parents took turns bringing in food. As most of you with teens know they can consume a large amount of food. It gets pretty expensive when you have to eat on the grounds all of the time. By parents bringing in meals it helped.

One year I took goulash. Some of the children asked if I could give their mothers my recipe. I am not sure the mothers appreciated that, but I did give it out. To say it was a hit is an understatement.

When you are showing animals there is much work to be done behind the scenes. The youngsters work with their animals for most of the summer making sure the animal is prepared to be led.

One year my daughter had a particularly difficult calf. The thing walked all right if you spent a lot of time leading her before the show. While my daughter got dressed for the show I walked the calf around the barn area to tire her out. She tired enough that her owner took a first place in showmanship. When the calf itself was being judged she lay down. One of the men had to help get her up so she could be led around the show ring.

My son took his animal for several years. Unfortunately the animal grew a lot faster than he did. By about the third year the animal was full grown. It was next to impossible for my son to keep the animal’s head up as he knew it should be since the animal’s head was above his head. Oh, well, he may not have won the showmanship award but he beat his dad and a lot of the other farmers during the judging contest. His dad always said that he picked the best calves to be his.

I grew up a city girl and had no idea what experiences would come my way being a farm wife and 4-H mother. I learned to wash calf ears and clean hooves. I learned how to apply the halter. I learned all about getting soaking wet each morning that you had to wash the animal. None of these things came with a job description. They were simply part of being a 4-H mom.

I would not trade those years for anything. That was the beginning of my association with the local county fair. Now my daughter is experiencing the same things. At least she has some experience with the animals.

We started to camp at the fair the year I was elected to the fair board. I was put on the publicity committee since people knew that I wrote for a country paper. Would you believe that I still camp beside the lady that I started to work with more than 25 years ago?

Even though I chose to leave the fair board, I still love the fair. Now I work in the food booth and do different jobs around the fair during the week. I am happy to be free to be able to see the next generation take their turn to have fun and to participate. Since I am just a volunteer, I can pick the hours that I work.

Here’s hoping some of you have good fair memories, too. If you have not attended a fair yet this summer try to fit it in before it is time for school. Fairs really do provide an educational experience. The farther everyone gets from the farm, the more there is to learn.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at