COLUMNISTS

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 https://jerryapps.com/ or contact him at jerryappsauthor@gmail.com.