I've been to a pretty good number of county fairs in Indiana over the years. A few have already taken place this year. Well over half are still to go. Find one near you and plan to attend. There's something about a county fair that brings a community together. It's a feeling you don't get the rest of the year.
For example, how can you beat the down-home atmosphere of the Jackson County Fair in Brownstown? Throngs of people, mostly older folks, bring lawn chairs and sit on the hill overlooking the fairgrounds at night, just so they can visit.
My latest trip there was memorable. The reigning Miss America at the time, Katie Stamm, was from Jackson County, and Don Cummings, a local dentist and part-time farmer, arranged to have her visit. I took pictures of her on a relative's M tractor, and with dairy cattle. She showed dairy cattle in 4-H. But I also met and took pictures of her parents.
Since most media outlets had covered her by then, I looked for a different angle. I took a shot of her parents at the fair and put it on the cover, 'Raising Miss America.' I thought it was cool.
What did my art director think? I should have featured Katie instead. How many times do you get to photograph Miss America? Well, guess what, you don't get an inside look at the people who helped her become Miss America very often either.
The Morgan County Fair has buildings for groups that sell food. You have a wide variety to pick from. I usually wind up with a pork burger or pork chop. Morgan is one of the few counties who kept their independence when the State Fair expanded dates. The last few days of the Morgan County fair overlap the start of the state fair. People there don't seem to mind. If you want to go to a county fair, you go to Martinsville, whether the state fair has started or not.
If you want to see lots of hogs, try the Wabash County Fair. When I visited, they showed some 600 head, roughly from sun-up to sundown. People who show animals pitch tents along the driveway – at least they did then.
There are hazards at county fairs, too. I almost got stuck at the Wabash County Fair because it rained while we were there. Still, where else can you get a Walleye fish sandwich, an elephant ear, a snow cone and an ear of corn, all at one time, without walking more than 50 yards?
OK, just a minute, the phone is ringing. What's that? It's my wife, wanting to go to the Marion County fair tonight. Imagine that – my wife, a dyed-in-the-wool livestock show ring veteran, wanting to go to a county fair. This time it's to take our young grandchildren.
Well, guess I better get busy. We're going to the fair tonight. See you at a county fair near you?
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