Wednesday, August 17, 2011

County Fair A Step Back in Time

Walking onto the grounds of Farm Bureau Park just outside Eureka during the annual Woodford County 4-H Fair is like taking a step back in time. Unlike most county fairs, this one doesn’t have the chaotic hum of a loud midway with carnival barkers, flashy rides and greasy foods.
This annual Woodford County August event is all about 4-H—the exhibits, the show animals, and the kids who put their hearts and souls into their projects all year.

Here, it’s quiet, except for the murmured conversations between judges and 4-Hers participating in interview judging, the booming voice of a judge from across the park at the animal barns during a livestock contest, and the occasional call over the loudspeakers announcing the next category up for judging.

The closest things here to the Ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl featured at most county fairs are the swings and slides at the playground equipment next to the exhibit building. However, flyers posted on a wooden sign outside the exhibit building tell of the kind of activities offered in place of the usual fair rides: a clover scavenger hunt, where participants look for posters throughout the park with 4-H clovers on them and note their locations; and Club Olympics, in which 4-H clubs compete in group contests. Then there are the Marshmallow creations and Oreo Cookie Stacking contests.

And instead of commercial food stands, selling everything from elephant ears to kabobs, the two food stands on the grounds have simpler menus. The one near the livestock exhibits offers more typical fair fare, like corn dogs and nachos. But the main food stand at the front of the park, run by the women of the Woodford County Home and Community Education Board, boasts a more homemade menu of pulled pork, pork chops, cakes and pies—even biscuits and gravy. It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year.

The closest thing to air conditioning is the breeze created by the electric fans in every building on the grounds. No air-conditioned buildings means no immediate relief from the oppressive heat this year. The trees on the grounds make plenty of shade, though, and there are plenty of picnic tables throughout the park on which to stop and rest and chat.

Once in awhile, when we’re sitting in the shade, watching the goings on, feeling a cross breeze that’s enough to bear the heat, we remember why we do this every year. And we realize why the Woodford County Fair hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s perfect just the way it is.

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