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What is a County Fair?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseTour. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By cclinton — On Dec 09, 2013

@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.

By Greencovi — On Dec 08, 2013

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.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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