County fairs are right up there with the flag and apple pie as examples of Americana that deserve our undivided attention.
Just think of the unfortunate folks in big cities like Chicago and New York who don't live in the midst of the county fair circuit. I am offended when this region is referred to as the Rust Belt and prefer to identify it as rich agriculture land, occupied by families who work hard and take one week off each year for the county fair to show crops and fruits and vegetables they have grown and animals they have raised.
It's hard to find any other public venue that is more family oriented or less expensive to attend.
The Lucas County Fair will end a five-day run today. As an example of how easy fair admissions are on the budget, the admission is $6 and $5 if you get the ticket at The Andersons. Today veterans and their families will not only be recognized but will be treated to bean soup and cornbread in Rec Hall 2 from noon to 4 p.m. Hundreds of volunteers make the fairs work and today that effort includes the soup and cornbread.
It's like Kay Stenzel, a Waterville resident and member of the board of directors, said, "Why, of course they have to be homemade." Even in this extreme hot weather? "Of course, we wouldn't have it any other way for our veterans."
If you are a county fair buff like I have been since childhood, you probably have a favorite on the circuit, be it Fulton, Williams, Ottawa, or others in northwest Ohio. The Hillsdale County Fair in Michigan is always last in late September when a sweater feels good for the evening events.
My favorite? Lenawee, my home county, which will be held July 22-28 at the fairgrounds in Adrian. I know how much work goes into the program and how special fair week is to the children who have groomed their animals and the women who have baked and canned their best for competition, all with hopes of taking home a blue ribbon. Prize money is minimal. It's the pride of winning that is valuable.
The $5 Lenawee admission includes ongoing performances by local talent each day in the band shell. The entertainment ranges from magic shows to bluegrass and gospel music.
My Grandmother Perkins told stories of how farmers put their farm work on hold in the peak of the season so that the whole family could spend a day at the Lenawee fair. She packed a picnic lunch with fried chicken and elderberry pie and spread a tablecloth on the ground for dinner near the Arts Building. It must have taken about two hours to travel by horse and buggy from the farm in Rome Township to Adrian.
The Arts Building is still there and I am sure it will be on my agenda.
But, I surely don't want to miss the Miracle of Life exhibit, for good reason and nostalgia.
Lenawee County families who have a newborn animal to exhibit or one that is due to give birth during fair week are invited to bring it to the birthing tent. Dr. Lorrie Tritt, a Tecumseh veterinarian, is on duty at the exhibit and is responsible for the Michigan State University educational videos that are shown.
The big news last year was the birthing of a calf, with Dr. Tritt's assistance.
The big news for me as a teenage cub reporter for the Adrian Daily Telegram was the birthing not of one pig, but of a dozen.
The county fair was my first assignment out of the newspaper office. Mother was excited. I was scared. My boss, managing editor the late Hoig Gay, was as gruff as usual telling me what to do and not to come back until I had a good story. Take it to the end, he always instructed.
I have never been quite sure if going into the swine building was good or bad. I remember peering over the pen into the straw, and there she was, a giant sow rolling around and grunting. Her piglets, and my story, gradually unfolded as one, two, three, and then there were 12 baby pigs that came into the world.
Of the thousands of stories I have written I cherish that one and always review it during fair week. It had a happy ending. All of the piglets lived and Mr. Gay liked my story.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org