Deep-fried Twinkies, fuzzy llamas and fireworks – who knew? County fairs are fun!

By | Category: Travel destinations

including me

everyone enjoys the petting area

Somehow, I had never attended a county or state fair until this, my 60th summer. A traditional summertime activity for Americans just about everywhere other than large urban areas, county and state fairs have been around since the post-Civil War era. I had a preconceived, admittedly snobbish notion, probably emanating from old movies like “State Fair,” that such events just weren’t for folks like “me,” whatever that meant. I should have just paid attention to the fair in my favorite children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web.” Instead, I missed out on many years of attendance of a very fun event.

We decided it was a good time to try it, at the same time that my editor was experiencing HIS local event. My husband and I headed to the Arapahoe County State Fair, about half an hour from our home in the suburb of Aurora, near Denver in the US state of Colorado. We drove east through the plains, and arrived at the fairgrounds to see an enormous Ferris Wheel rising from the grasslands, along with other rather sinister-looking. death-defying rides. At the Admission Gate, a good ten minute walk from the unpaved car lot, we found “The Best Bargain of the Summer” — namely that admission for $15 per adult, (kids under 36 inches free) includes unlimited carnival rides, fireworks, concerts on the main stage, rodeos, the high-flying dock dogs, 4-H exhibits, open class contests, tractor pulls, and motor sports. Cash only was accepted, but a handy ATM machine for those who only carry credit cards was set there on the stubbly grass next to the gate.

and awards to animals

there have to be show queens

Even as a child, afflicted with perpetual motion sickness, carnival rides were not my thing. My first destination was the “petting zoo.” I would be in my version of heaven, dashing straight to the little corral where I stooped down, along with mostly children, to embrace any number of little goats, llamas, a baby donkey and Shetland pony. An enormous mother cow and her calf were behind a small fence whilst a mama hog had an infinite number of piglets suckling her. The goats ambled up constantly hoping for a nuzzle, or better yet, a bit of the food pellets which were sold there for $1. My husband wasn’t quite as enamored as I with this “zoo,” but he humoured me and took photos.

On to the educational section. I figured this part would be rather devoid of crowds and I was right. However, we found the proud displays of homemade jams and jellies, quilts and photography, etc. rather endearing and uplifting – cheerful things to ponder during these disturbing times. There really are young girls who still compete for “best pie crust” or “prettiest icing?” I was delighted to know that not EVERY young girl is glued to her cell phone at all times!

and strange signs!

attractions of all sorts

We moved on to the arcade and ride area, just be to dazzled and befuddled by the gaudy lights, colors, signs and screaming carnival barkers hawking wildly fluorescent fuschia stuffed dogs, cats and other critters that some hapless young fellow would try to win for a girlfriend, sure to spend a small fortune in his efforts. There were all sorts of food items that seemed appallingly unhealthy but their fragrance was heady – things like corn dogs, giant roasted turkey legs, corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise and grated cheese, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and most incredible of all – fried Oreos, Twinkies and Cupcakes. We’d never seen such things, and somehow, they didn’t tempt us. We were amused by a booth with not a single customer – it was the Vegan Booth, selling quinoa, pita and hummus sandwiches, and veggie burgers. Apparently, county fairs are not the place to eat healthy.

and stalls

a variety of different foods

We greatly enjoyed the so-called “Dock Dogs” area, in which dogs dive into a large swimming pool and are judged on their agility and “canine aquatics’ skills. We also visited the livestock exhibits, which proudly showed off a wider variety of adorable rabbits, gorgeous chickens with elegant plumage and scrubbed clean pigs than we had known existed. Their owners, frequently children from farm areas, were friendly and very ready to share information about their animals.

In the background, rock and country bands took turns performing, but we didn’t spend too much time listening. After all, we could see enormous cows and Percheron horses up close – which drew our attention more than music.

As nightfall drew, the carnival lights came on at the amusement park section, and the rides became even more gaudy and colourful. All were waiting for true darkness, and we were rewarded by an impressive, 20-minute fireworks display. I worried about what all of the animals felt with all that ear-splitting noise, but had to admit it was a thrill to look up at the sky over the wide-open prairie. I also admit full heartedly that the county fair was a lot of fun, one which I plan to attend next year as well!

Images © Mark Rush Photography

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