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What is a County Fair?

A County Fair is a vibrant local tradition that celebrates community, agriculture, and craftsmanship. It's a festive gathering where families enjoy rides, games, and indulge in delicious food. Showcasing local talent, from livestock competitions to homemade pies, it's a slice of hometown pride. Ready to embrace the charm of rural festivities? Discover what makes a County Fair the heart of local culture.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A county fair is a local event often held in the late spring, summer or early fall. Fairs give communities a chance to show off their unique habits and talents and can be a wonderful expression of a county’s personality. For long time residents, the county fair can be a nostalgic event, bringing back memories of Ferris wheels and cotton candy past, and giving them a chance to introduce younger generations to a great tradition.

Many county fairs have specialized events or exhibitions of local items. In farming towns or counties with a significant agricultural base, the fair may offer contests for the biggest produce, the best flowers or hardiest livestock. Agricultural groups like 4-H often encourage young members to enter their livestock, teaching a new generation about the values of farming and quality agricultural work. Other events, like sheepdog trials or horse races, pit local owners and breeders against one another, bringing fame and sometimes fortune to the winner, as well as entertainment to the crowd.

County fairs may include roller coasters.
County fairs may include roller coasters.

In addition to agricultural displays, county fairs often include arts and crafts exhibitions or contests. These displays may cover a wide variety of artistic mediums, from painting and photography to sculpture, quilt making and ornamental woodwork. If you are visiting your county fair, take some time to look over the displays of your local community; not only will you come away with a better sense of the talent around you, you may find a favorite artist or artisan to contact for future work. Often, the art at county fairs is offered for sale, so be prepared to walk away with the perfect watercolor to hang over the mantel.

Ferris wheels are popular attractions at many county fairs.
Ferris wheels are popular attractions at many county fairs.

For many people, the defining characteristic of a county fair is the carnival. Although not as elaborate as Disneyland or as thrill-seeking as a heavy duty roller coaster park, the carnival rides are usually enough to induce screams and shouts of delight. Many carnival midways will also feature various games of skill, usually providing the rare winners with a stuffed animal large enough to guard your house. If you are concerned about the games being less-than-fair, try out ones that pit competitors against each other, rather than just against the odds.

Many county fairs include locally raised livestock.
Many county fairs include locally raised livestock.

County fair food is usually fragrant, fattening and often fried. This is the day to throw your diet out the door and chow down on a corn dog. Some fairs make a habit of deep frying more and more ridiculous items, including candy bars, soft drinks and peanut butter sandwiches. The county fair may be no friend to your calorie counting, but it is a once a year event. Try out the best local food vendors have to offer and enjoy yourself; just don’t ride the roller coaster directly after eating three deep fried Twinkies and a gallon of lemonade.

County fairs may include celebrations with fireworks.
County fairs may include celebrations with fireworks.

Bringing locals together for a celebration of their community is a great plan, and offers something for everyone. Whether guiding a youngster onto the kiddy rides, sneaking a first kiss on the tilt-a-whirl, or watching your next-door neighbor win the gold in a pie-eating contest, attending the fair is a unique experience that can really bring out the best in your local area. So check your local listings and mark your calendars for a day at the fair; the carnival is calling, and there’s some pink popcorn with your name on it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historical significance of county fairs?

Livestock usually is auctioned off at the conclusion of a county fair.
Livestock usually is auctioned off at the conclusion of a county fair.

County fairs have a rich history dating back to the 1800s, serving as a community gathering to celebrate the harvest and agricultural prowess. They originated as a way for farmers to compete by showcasing their best livestock and crops, fostering a spirit of friendly competition and community pride. Today, they continue to honor agricultural heritage while also incorporating modern entertainment, educational exhibits, and local culture.

What types of events and activities can I expect at a county fair?

County fairs may have displays that include tractors and other  pieces of heavy farming equipment.
County fairs may have displays that include tractors and other pieces of heavy farming equipment.

At a county fair, you can expect a diverse array of events including livestock competitions, 4-H exhibits, carnival rides, games, and live entertainment such as music and magic shows. There are also numerous food vendors offering traditional fair treats like funnel cakes and corn dogs. Educational exhibits, craft fairs, and competitions like pie-eating or quilting contests are also common, providing a blend of learning and fun for all ages.

How does a county fair contribute to the local economy?

Local art is often sold a country fairs.
Local art is often sold a country fairs.

County fairs have a significant economic impact on their local communities. They generate revenue through ticket sales, vendor fees, and sponsorships. According to a study by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, fairs contribute billions to the U.S. economy annually. They also create seasonal jobs and boost income for local businesses by attracting visitors who spend on accommodations, dining, and shopping.

Are county fairs family-friendly, and what facilities are available for children?

Finger foods are sold during a county fair.
Finger foods are sold during a county fair.

Yes, county fairs are designed to be family-friendly with a wide range of activities suitable for children. Facilities typically include kid-focused carnival rides, petting zoos, educational workshops, and interactive exhibits. Many fairs also offer family rest areas, changing stations, and designated quiet spaces to ensure a comfortable experience for visitors of all ages.

How can I find out when and where a county fair is taking place?

To find out about county fairs, you can check local event calendars, visit the websites of fairgrounds or county fair associations, or look for announcements in community newspapers. Social media platforms and tourism boards are also excellent resources for up-to-date information on fair dates, locations, and schedules. This ensures you won't miss out on the unique experiences each fair has to offer.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a WiseTour writer.

Learn more...
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a WiseTour writer.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

cclinton

@Greencovi have you been to the Racine County Fair? That's a really good one and its cream puff eating contest is one of my favorite parts of summer.

The Winnebago County Fair is another good one in Wisconsin. My kids love their tractor pulls. And they have a good website with all the county fair dates so you don't miss out.

Greencovi

County fair grounds are a big draw in the warmer months where I live. Whether hosting a livestock show or summer concert series, Wisconsin fair grounds get a lot of use.

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    • County fairs may include roller coasters.
      By: Sura Nualpradid
      County fairs may include roller coasters.
    • Ferris wheels are popular attractions at many county fairs.
      By: vitalliy
      Ferris wheels are popular attractions at many county fairs.
    • Many county fairs include locally raised livestock.
      By: AZP Worldwide
      Many county fairs include locally raised livestock.
    • County fairs may include celebrations with fireworks.
      By: James Thew
      County fairs may include celebrations with fireworks.
    • Livestock usually is auctioned off at the conclusion of a county fair.
      By: ellisia
      Livestock usually is auctioned off at the conclusion of a county fair.
    • County fairs may have displays that include tractors and other  pieces of heavy farming equipment.
      By: Johan Larson
      County fairs may have displays that include tractors and other pieces of heavy farming equipment.
    • Local art is often sold a country fairs.
      By: picsfive
      Local art is often sold a country fairs.
    • Finger foods are sold during a county fair.
      By: Kybele
      Finger foods are sold during a county fair.