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OPINION: Who Doesn’t Like A Good Old Fashioned County Fair?

by By Stan Fine, Columnist | September 8, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

I suppose one could look at me as a summer person. I like those hot summer months when the hours of daylight have lengthened far beyond those cold and dreary days of winter. It is the end of the summer that usually brings a sense of dread to me as I begin to think about the coming winter, but there is one thing that I look forward to. That single event takes place in August of each year and is the county fair.

Now, who among us doesn't like a good old-fashioned county fair? There is always an assortment of animals such as cows, hogs, rabbits and more. And as for the look on the face of a youngster when he or she receives that coveted blue ribbon, well that moment will be remembered forever.

As you may have already surmised, this story is about county fairs. Logically and quite predictably, since I live in McDonald County, Missouri, the tale will eventually, but not right away, be about the yearly fair held in the town of Anderson. This small town is home to around two thousand or so good country folks and is conveniently located within the boundaries of McDonald County. So far, I think the rationale for this story I will share with you good folks is working out well.

In the early part of June each year, folks living in San Diego County flock to the San Diego County Fair. The fair is generally considered to be one of the best and largest in the country and runs until July 4th. The fair can trace its roots back to the 1880s when it was farm related. The fair is now held in Del Mar, Calif., and although agriculture and craft-related entries are always crowd favorites, many people look forward to the bubble gum blowing contest.

The York Fair opens each year on the weekend after Labor Day. The ten-day event originated in 1765 and is, without doubt, the oldest fair in the United States. Each year fair attendees are treated to carnival rides, "fair foods," and all manners of contests and concerts.

The title for the largest county fair in the country, California notwithstanding, must go to the Erie County Fair. The fair is held in the town of Hamburg, and the yearly attendance is estimated to be more than one million people. The fair has one of the largest midways of any county fair, but many attendees are drawn to the fair because of the contests for baking, homemade wine and beer, and woodworking.

Well, this next event isn't called a fair but, in many ways, it meets all the criteria of one. The Florida Strawberry Festival is held in March of each year. The festival takes place in Plant City which is located just east of the Tampa area. There is a parade, a pageant, and 4-H exhibits. Visitors can enjoy the livestock shows and all have a good time at the midway. The original purpose of the celebration was designed to celebrate the strawberry harvest as there are more than 10,000 acres of strawberry fields surrounding Plant City.

Music lovers can enjoy the daily concerts, and shoppers can peruse a variety of items at the flea market. However, I have personally attended and I can share with you what I perceive to be the best thing about the event -- the food. If you are a strawberry lover, you'll fall in love with the variety of foods topped with or containing fresh strawberries. My favorite food was a drink; a vanilla milkshake with gobs of tasty strawberries mixed in. It's hard to limit oneself to just one.

Some of you folks residing in the Southwest Missouri county of McDonald might be thinking, "so what." For those people, I will now talk about a fair a little closer to home, the McDonald County Fair held in the town of Anderson.

Looking for a way of promoting county businesses and agricultural products, a group of McDonald County, Missouri folks came up with an idea. Let's have a county fair. Other counties were doing it and it seemed to be successful for other areas, so the idea soon grew into reality. The first McDonald County Fair took place on August 24, 25, 26 and 27 in Anderson, in the year 1910.

Posters announcing the event were printed and hung on fence posts all over the county. How in the world could folks not want to attend? There would be ball games every day, Thornton's Steam Merry-Go-Round would be in operation, and two bands would perform. The highlight of the entertainment offered would, however, and without a doubt, be the balloon ascensions and parachute leaping. It was later reported that the fair was a rousing success.

The fair continued to take place each August. In 1937, people attending the fair were treated to horse races. The winning rider would receive a cash prize of $15. The fair continues till this very year.

This year's contest winners were a proud group. McKenzie Rogers's dog was judged to be the ugliest dog, while Addison Nicholas' dog, River was found to be the littlest canine.

Kade Blevins proved that the previous year's victory was no fluke as his swift turtle won the turtle race event. The Premier Exhibitor winner was Macy Reece, and the fair's Little Miss title fell to the charming Baylea Sherman.

In my opinion, the McDonald County Fair is the best one I know of. Now, what in the world might make me utter such a statement? There are no giant roller coasters, no midway with carnival games, and certainly no strawberry shakes made with real strawberries. It's not the oldest, and it is by no means the biggest of the county fairs, but it has something that I really like.

The fair represents the people, their simple and relaxed lifestyle, and their values. I think that a county fair should be a representation of the people in that county, not just a sideshow and I think this small fair does just that.

I find the relaxed down-home country flavor of the fair to my liking. As I walk along, I say hello and stop and talk to folks I may not have had the pleasure of seeing for quite some time, but there is something else. I can always find a good story hidden there somewhere.

In many ways, the fair brings to mind some of the reasons why some years ago I moved to McDonald County. The fair paints a portrait of country life and an appreciation for the simple, uncomplicated things that I so very much now appreciate.

Many of life's most treasured things are taken for granted and looked at with the most cavalier of attitudes. I find that I am guilty of forgetting how lucky I am and, yes, I don't always seem to appreciate the simple things in this world that make my life more interesting and, yes, far better.

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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