According to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, the first American agricultural fair took place in Massachusetts in 1811. Our El Paso County (Colorado) Fair began as a modest gathering in 1905; today, it’s one of more than 3,200 annual fairs in North America.
Now as then, county fairs place agrarian life front and center; many competitors are youngsters who participate in rural youth development programs such as 4-H. Preparing for and competing in livestock, small animal and craft contests is an old-fashioned opportunity to test their mettle and build their character.
For the rest of us, county fairs are a bow to the past and a rebuke to the future, reminding us that virtual reality still can’t hold a candle to the rich sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the breathing, pulsing world all around us.
For those of you who won’t make it to a fair this year, here’s three minutes of unabashed Americana: