Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Day at the Fair

In 1888 times worsened for farmers like Isaac Werner, and he wrote in his journal that farmers needed to use their heads as well as their backs if they were to survive.  One of the ideas that came from using his head was the plan to form a Stafford County Agricultural Society, and he went to the county seat in St. John to speak with businessmen, as well as fellow farmers, promoting the idea.  Eventually he succeeded in getting enough men interested to form the Stafford County Agricultural Society, for which he was elected Secretary.  One of their plans was to have local gatherings at which prizes were awarded for the best produce and livestock.  Other communities were doing the same thing at about this time, and as my blog of last week, "Time for the Fair!" explained, the roots of the Kansas State Fair reach back to the first Agricultural Society fair held in Hutchinson.
Something to crow about
This week my husband and I went to the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Kansas State Fair, and the entire day I thought of Isaac and wondered if he would be surprised by the continued popularity of agricultural fairs.  I took my camera, and I will be posting a series of photo-filled blogs about the fair in coming weeks.  This week I invite you to come along with my husband and me to spend a day at the fair.

Shelves of farmers' best
One of our first stops was at the Pride of Kansas Building, and just inside the door was the butter carving, an elaborate statue entirely carved from butter of a mule looking at the tractor that was displacing him in pulling machinery.  The glass-walled, refrigerated display was popular with young and old fair goers.
A school group enjoys the carving
Boys and their toys!
No doubt Isaac would have enjoyed this pavilion in which the farm crops were displayed.  The produce had already been judged, so ribbons of purple, blue, red and white intermingled with the rich colors of orange pumpkins, red potatoes and apples, green beans and watermelon, golden corn and wheat, and rust-colored milo.  There were also brightly-colored farm grown flowers and honey from farm hives.
No state fair could be complete without all of the implements on display.  My husband paused for a photograph beside an old John Deere tractor, and I strolled with him through several implement displays.  Eventually, I left him alone to study the fascinating characteristics (to him!) of rows and rows of machinery, while I enjoyed the delightful qualities (to me!) of rows and rows of quilts.
Silver-haired sweethearts
Nearly every Kansan who went to the fair as a teenager remembers riding through the dark canals of the Old Mill with their sweetheart.  There were enough scary surprises during the ride to make a girl cuddle closer for protection, and the ride was long enough for even a shy boy to work up the courage to put his arm around his girlfriend.  The braver boys found opportunities to steal a kiss or two.  As the photograph shows, some of those Kansas sweethearts are still holding hands and remembering rides together through the Old Mill long ago.
A patch of shade for one

The fair is about meeting friends, old ones and new.  Comfortable shoes and cool clothing can only help so much on fair days when the temperatures reach triple digits, so finding a shaded bench to visit with friends, or a spot away from the crowds to check your e-mails or send a text are appreciated.  We arrived mid-morning with temperatures at 87 degrees and the sun climbing in a clear blue sky, but later in the day the clouds drifted in, and it was a pleasant afternoon, with a slight breeze.
Relaxing with friends  
Of course, we had to wander through the carnival rides and the games of chance--although we boarded no rides nor took any chances!  In my youth, I confess that a day at the state fair was all about carnival rides and food, unless I wanted to impress some boy with livestock at the fair by visiting his animal.  Now, I visit the amusement section of the fair grounds only to enjoy the bright colors and the excited laughter and screams of children and teenagers enjoying the rides I once loved. 
Watch my stuff, Dad!

As we strolled through the carnival rides we were amused by the sight of a father, sitting on a bench waiting for his children as they enjoyed the rides.  He was nearly hidden by a collection of stuffed animals, apparently entrusted to his care by his children.  We could just imagine their departing voices calling out as they rushed off to another ride, "Watch my stuff, Dad!"
No fair would be complete without the commercial vendors demonstrating their products, and I could not resist snapping a quick action shot of this man.  I didn't pause long enough to risk being caught in his sales pitch, but one lady looked like she might be a prospective customer.
Our day would not have been nearly as much fun if we had not arrived just in time to watch the last heat of the 4 o-clock pig races.  Young pigs, barely more than piglets, squirmed eagerly as the announcer warmed up the crowd with his clever pre-race introductions of the contestants.  Suddenly, they were off and racing--not for the roses but rather for a pile of pig feed just past the finish line.  Pigs can run faster than you might guess! 
As our day wound down, we found the perfect way to relax.  A six member New Orleans style jazz band, led by the jazz band instructor from Hutchinson Community College, was entertaining in the pavilion by Lake Talbott.  We lingered to tap our toes to several numbers played by this outstanding group of musicians, but I guess their audience was too weary from a day strolling the fair grounds to let the music tempt them into dancing.
As the sun sunk toward the western horizon, we followed it toward our car, sweaty and foot sore, having had a wonderful day at the fair.  On our way out, we encountered two young brothers, far luckier than we in their rolling sleeping quarters. 
Be sure to return to my blog in coming weeks to read and view more of the things we saw at the fair, for I have only shared a sampling of the fun we had.  Remember, you can enlarge the images by clicking on them.




Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

DK shared this comment with me: "The only fair we've been to lately, and that has been years, if the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. It was just as you described!

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

NSH shared this comment with me: "I remember going to the fair with you one year. We saw a new invention that cooked cupcakes in just minutes. They were not as tasty as oven baked ones, but that did not stop us from scarfing them down. Never expected the microwave to be such an important part of our lives."

Anonymous said...

I remember marching in the band in the parade during my senior year in high school. That WAS a long time ago. It was always enjoyable to go to the fair. Think I'd like to do it again, after reading all of your comments.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

I remember band trips to the state fair too...marching down Main Street and then marching down the midway at the fair too. At least, that part about the midway is what I think I remember. Today, I think the bands play on one of the open-air stages rather than marching down the midway. I also remember how hot the wool band uniforms were in early September!

The Blog Fodder said...

Always loved going to the Exhibition, though it is more about entertainment today than education as it was in times past. When Ella and I were first married almost 40 years ago, that summer in Saskatoon, we were fortunate enough to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at the grandstand. Our cattle shows tend to be mostly in fall.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Unfortunately, those cowboy heroes of our childhood don't mean much to kids today. We have a great photograph of my husband at about age six standing in front of the family 78 record player/radio console dressed in his Hoppalong Cassidy outfit. He loved Gene and Roy too, and later, Sky King!