Fair Fare: Feast on the Sights, Sounds and Tastes of a Local Fair

The sound of applause as a winner is named in the horse arena. Seeing a toddler jump for joy while enjoying an ice cream cone from the dairy bar. Taking a big bite of an elephant ear (which of course doesn’t come from an elephant) and licking the sugar off your fingers. There’s nothing quite like a day at a county or state fair to tickle your senses and connect you with your community.

Growing up in a small town in Northern Indiana, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair was the highlight of my family’s summer. For my siblings and me, a year’s worth of hard work in preparing our 4-H projects and working with our horses culminated in those nine days in late July. In fact, we took our camper to the fairgrounds, as this was considered our “family vacation.” We saw our friends from all over the county, and experienced the joy of victory, as well as the agony of defeat – like when my pony bucked the entire way around the arena and 10-year-old me thought I would die of embarrassment.

Spending a day at the fair can give you a glimpse into lives different than your own and illustrate how much we have in common. When is the last time you spoke with a person who lives on a farm and raises dairy cows? Have you ever asked a champion baker what her secret is for making pies? There’s so much to explore and enjoy, while learning a few things along the way.

Going to a fair gives you a chance to kick the tires – literally – of tractors that today come equipped with GPS and iPad-connected yield monitors. You can admire crafts made by LocalFairScavengerHuntImagechildren of all ages and see how the sophistication grows as they get older. Community groups are often in attendance to talk about what they are doing to make your corner of the world a better place, and perhaps give your kids balloons. Of course, there is no shortage of food to sample as you indulge in that “once a year” box of saltwater taffy.

I have two teenagers in my house, so pulling them away from their screens to try new things and create favorite experiences is a priority for my husband and me. With so much of our lives today being in the “virtual realm,” I highly recommend creating family memories through a day together, running around at a fair. To help you make the most of your fair moments, take along this scavenger hunt and see how many of these you can experience at a summer fair near you. Your senses will thank you!


A self-described “fair fanatic,” Kenda Resler Friend is also passionate about telling the story of agriculture. She has worked in agricultural public relations for 27 years, 17 of them at Dow AgroSciences, and currently leads media relations and external communication efforts for the company. Kenda earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue University, and is pleased her children are continuing the family tradition of being 4-H members.