Pandemic may take away most fairs this summer, but memories remain

Jerry Apps
This merry-go-round awaits riders at the Waushara County Fair in 2019. This year, many beloved fair rides will remain in storage due to COVID-19.

It’s a dark and dreary summer for those of us who love our fairs. Among all the stress and challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, forcing our county fairs to cancel, as well as the state fair ranks right up near the top.

For so many years, a fair was the highlight of my summer—the years I was in 4-H, the years I helped manage fairs as an extension agent, the years I served as a fair judge and the years I just visited a fair. All gone this summer. The excitement of judging day and the challenge of competition. The look on the face of a 4-H member winning her first blue ribbon. The chance to meet people seen only once a year. The opportunity to sleep over at the fair.

Memories of the smells of the fair, everything from the smell of onions frying in a food stand, to the cattle barns’ smell. The sounds of a rooster crowing in the poultry shed, the crowd sounds from the grandstand during a horse race, the sound from the merry-go-round with its little horses bobbing up and down as it goes around. The cry of the Midway barker, “Three balls for a dollar—everyone wins a prize.” Or a few feet away, another carny yells, “Guess your age within three years!”

All of these sounds, smells and sights tucked away in my memory bank. COVID-19 may take away most of our fairs this summer, but it can not take away the memories. For me, they will remain forever.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: When so much seems to be disappearing—our memories remain.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to