I never attended the state fair as a child growing up in Ohio even though I was an 8-year 4-H member. In those days I always went to the Wyandot County Fair, which I thought was the greatest county fair in the state (and still do!). About ten years ago I started attending the Indiana State Fair, and now I wouldn’t dream of going to the fair without wearing my bright-colored tie-died Indiana State Fair Shirt.
There’s a magical feel when you walk around the fairgrounds early in the morning before everyone springs into action.The air is filled with possibility–how many pounds will the largest pumpkin be? How many piglets will the champion sow and litter have this year? Will I get to see a calf born? And what fair food will I eat??? This year I stuck with the traditional items–an elephant ear and a rib-eye steak sandwich, but the next time I might just try a deep-fried Oreo!
Even though the fair features many of the same ingredients year after year, the baby calves and piglets always take my breath away. I know I’m projecting, but I see an innocence in their expression, one that takes me back to my early days on the farm. I smile and sometimes grimace when watching young 4-Hers exhibiting hogs, market lambs, and cattle. Hogs definitely have a mind of their own no matter how much their owners rap them with a cane! And then there are the spontaneous conversations you have as well as the ones you overhear. I’m still trying to wrap my mind about the idea of tractors that can drive themselves!
This year we arrived on opening day at 6:15 a.m. for the balloon launch from the infield of the racetrack. Horse carts trotted by in the early morning dawn leaving trails of dust in their wake. Fourteen giant hot-air balloons lie prostrate on the ground in readiness for flight. Positioning themselves around the balloons, their owners begin the inflation process with a simple box fan, and soon each balloon ripples into its familiar shape. One at a time they rise in the air and slowly drift away until they are just specks on the horizon. Another great state fair has begun!