Kelly Alley

You wouldn’t guess it from the weather recently, but it’s still summertime.

With all of this heat, humidity and random pop-up showers comes the perfect opportunity to set up small amusement rides and various stands selling more food than you can possibly eat in one sitting. That’s what the folks up in Anderson County say every July, and I have to agree with them.

If you haven’t guessed already, this column will focus on more of a local topic of interest. The experience is the same across America – only the landscape and folks’ accents change.

County fairs are something I reckon are uniquely American, especially the rural ones. Besides being less crowded and full of characters, these fairs offer experiences that you just can’t get at the bigger regional fairs.

It’s always something to watch the local 4-H kids show off their hard work in the cattle and goat shows, to see all of their hard work result in faces gleaming with a certain accomplishment. Events like tractor and lawnmower pulls offer a bit of good-natured entertainment in that classic good-old-folks way of, “Well, didn’t win this time around, but I reckon I’ll be back come next year.”

Fair food fare is always an interesting adventure. Yes, there is the stereotypical “fried everything” at several of the food stands, and you’re bound to come across quite a few funnel cake stands along the way too.

There are also unique eats that you can just about only find at these fairs, things that are best washed down with freshly squeezed lemonade. If you can still manage to munch on one, candy or caramel apples help to round off a night at the fair, as long as you don’t get stuck on which one to get.

Country county fairs also have their own flavor of people you might stumble into. Little old ladies chatting around the quilting displays, old men jawing about their antique tractors, folks of all ages taking an idyllic breather on rocking chairs set up alongside a building. Little kids begging their parents for one more ride on the carousel, or another chance at popping a balloon for a prize in the midway. Local political figures walking around in shorts and t-shirts, shaking hands but not necessarily schmoozing up votes for the next election.

Give me these raw glimpses of intimate Americana spirit any day. It’s something you can’t quite get entirely at the bigger fairs, with their large crowds and their intent on making a quick buck.

So go out, find a local county fair and immerse yourself in the experience. Just make sure you get your funnel cake after you hop on some rides.

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