Kay Chamberlain
Krist at the grill. Where are the gastronauts?
This last week I was involved in the great American tradition of the county fair.


In All Fairness

Kay Chamberlain
Krist at the grill. Where are the gastronauts?
This last week I was involved in the great American tradition of the county fair. It's that one time of the year when cotton candy and the fried dough called elephant ears are good for the soul. The fair is a celebration where local folks show their animals, produce and crafts. There's live music too. The occasion is a vestige of the old farm culture - a time when people lived with the land and what it gave them. Today's agriculture is an industry with fresh foods that are inexpensive and readily available regardless of the season. In an era where big box stores are popular, where does the old fashioned county fair fit in?

I work in the fair as a volunteer for the Grange food booth. I help flip burgers for our biggest fundraiser of the year. There was stew and baked chicken dinners too. The profits will help fund the community work we do. The endeavor is a good moneymaker because there are zero labor costs. It was a lot of fun to volunteer with others. (I guess that I'm lucky I can do this kind of job for fun.)

I have a crop of McPick cucumbers coming on. I found some nice ones in the patch and I entered them in the fair. I'm proud to say that I got the blue ribbon! Even though I was the only cuke in the pickling category, I will still boast about the blue ribbon with my preserves! And I got to see other growers strut their stuff - there was a magnificent eggplant! I knew most of the vegetable producers and sought out the growers I didn't so I made new friends.

People of all ages were walking, talking and having a good time. There were exhibitions of arts and crafts, along with local businesses promoting services and wares. It's an election year so candidates and political parties had booths. The event is the microcosm of the community. That's why I put my time and efforts in the fair -- it's my belief that people should come together to make things happen.

I'm brimming with idealism but let's face it, attendance in the fair was down this year. I've noticed the fair shrinking over the years -- even before the economic downturn. There are less animals and less crafts. Tight government budgets mean public funds for fairs are also going away.

The Wahkiakum County Fair started a little over one hundred years ago. At that time the north shore of the lower Columbia river was pretty isolated and mostly a monoculture. Information traveled slowly - many people got around by rowboat! The fair served a social purpose, provided entertainment while offerering opportunities to learn about new technologies benefitting rural living. It was the only show around for many years.

These days, the information revolution accommodates new forms of association. Like-minded people can still get together in person but at events that reflect specific subcultures. Individuals attend festivals attuned to a certain musical genre, walk around the desert in body paint or attend tattoo conventions -- to name only a few kinds of happenings. The diverse events available accommodate the variety expected by the modern media consumer.

I can't tell you what the future holds for the county fair. Today it's another event in the very competitive entertainment industry. Regardless, I had a good experience and that's the essence of an individual choosing to participate in a group endeavor.

Krist & Apollo wander, calling for Focaccia.

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