Fair a great way to bring city, country together

Jerry Apps
Jerry Apps spends an afternoon at the Waushara County Fair signing his latest book Meet me on the Midway.

I am not doing much traveling these days.  But my daughter Sue and I did manage to attend the Waushara County Fair on a recent Saturday.  I was there for an afternoon of signing my new book, Meet me on the Midway: A History of Wisconsin Fairs.

A huge crowd attended the fair on a recent sunny Saturday.  As one fairgoer who stopped by my signing table said, “So many people on the Midway you could hardly walk.”

Everyone stopping by my signing table, where a 4-H Leader and 4-H members from the Pine River 4-H club were helping me, had a story to tell. Of course, I had few to share myself as I first attended this fair with my dad when I was four years old. Dad had shown cattle at this fair back in the 1920s and he had many stories to share. As a 4-H member, I showed calves at this fair for ten years.

The story swapping was interrupted every few minutes by the air shattering roar of souped-up riding lawn mowers in a lawn mower pulling contest. No such thing when I was a kid. 

I chatted with a fair director who stopped by, and he said that events like this one, a demolition derby, tractor pulling contest and such bring the younger generation to the fair.

I talked at length with another fair director about the role of fairs these days and whether they had a future. We both agreed that fairs are an important way of telling the story of agriculture and country life to our urban friends, at a time when the number of farmers is small and declining.

Walking through the dairy barn, with well-groomed calves and cows all standing in a row, I spotted a little Jersey calf. A little girl, I’d guess maybe two years old, was petting the calf and she was smiling from ear to ear. The calf seemed to be smiling, too. What a wonderful way to begin telling the story of farming and farm life.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The fair is a great way to bring city and country together.

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 or contact him at