A Day at the Fair

Photo by James P. Hughes

Prepare yourselves – the fair is back in action! With a variety of county fairs offering up vender booths and animal pens, anyone looking for some lively agricultural fun, carnival glory, and/or food that might bust an artery but definitely beats the heat can find something to do.

Growing up on a small horse farm, Hemlock Fair always meant show time. Whether or not I was riding, I usually always knew someone who was and had horse stalls to decorate and manes to braid.

It was an unspoken rule that the best-decorated stall earned some major props from the rest of the horse-people community. It might sound like a silly practice, but when your stall slot becomes your camp base for all of fair week, people don’t mess around when it comes to having some extra fun. I’ve seen stalls turn into private beach scenes, Mardi Gras parties, hippie tie-dye, and even one that was entirely decked out in American flags. Our little barn called our 4-H group the Lucky Charms – horse shoes and shamrocks everywhere!

The only sign that people were there for a serious cause was the row of prize ribbons typically displayed along the stall door. As you earned ‘em, you pinned ‘em. Some competitive types even led their horses around wearing them in their halters. I usually had a vast array of colors (different colors symbolize different rank/placement in the events) but was never bothered by the scores. I think county fairs bring out the friendliest competition I’ve ever experienced.

Because people don’t typically ride in every event, there are always big chunks of time that the horses use to rest up and the riders use to explore the rest of the fair. I had a family friend that would barely be off his horse after a show before he was stripping off his jacket and making a sprint for the hot corn cobs and Spinning Apples ride.

My friends and I had more appreciation for our stomachs and would take our time meandering through the rabbit barn petting the bunnies and giving a wide berth to the cow pens. To this day I’ve yet to find it otherwise that horse people think cows smell, and cow people think horses smell. I also avoided the rooster barn, but that’s probably due to my personal discomfort (you can only be chased down by flapping wings and beady eyes so many times at home before you become a little wary).

However, on warm days there’s a timer that starts right when you leave the comfort of the fans by your stall. If you don’t manage to make it through the animal barns to the lemonade stand before too long, you’ll definitely melt. You can add on a few minutes if you cut through the cool, shaded Scout Project Display buildings, but if you forget your refillable cup and have to go back, forget it. At that point the only thing that can save you is some freshly scooped ice cream.

Or the frozen cheesecakes on a stick – it is a fair after all!


Halie Solea 2013By Halie Solea