The Kentucky State Fair, Revisited

wheel2How many times have I started off this column, stating that I haven’t done this thing since I was a kid? Well, here I am again. I’m 34 years old, and until last weekend, I hadn’t visited the Kentucky State Fair since my mom took me when I was a kid. This time, I took my Mom.

I do this column for a reason: I’m a semi-social person. I’m not inclined to leave my comfort zone, but I often feel rewarded when I do. This column quite often challenges me to go outside my bubble and experience things that I have never sought out  – or re-experience things that I’ve strangely avoided. Why have I avoided the fair all these years? I normally imagine that having to wait in backed-up traffic only to be in a huge crowd of people with country music blaring and the smell of livestock under the blazing sun doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.

cornHowever, fond memories of the fair involved the sight of games, rides, crazy food and breezy weather. I am a big believer that nice weather brings out the best in people, and we’ve certainly had it lately. I also believe that if you bring a camera to an interesting location, you can find a purpose in the collection of images.

Bringing my mom was an enlightening throwback to childhood, except that I now saw the once infinite area of noise where I was afraid of getting lost to be like a gigantic mall representing the products of one’s region. I noticed things I didn’t remember like all the art and photography on display. Mom reminded me that, when I was little, I really liked looking at paintings and sculptures while my sister liked seeing the animals.

As a kid, I was always bored with the animals. With a grown-up perspective, I found a greater interest in the variety of beasts featured, especially the diverse number of rabbits. There was a giant ball of white fur, which had won the “Best of Breed” for the white Angora.

Louisville aggiesBecause I have worked a garden in recent years, I was entertained by the fruits and vegetables room. Mega-zucchinis and super pumpkins made me wonder what in the world their function would be – other than their value in being stared at with dropped jaws. I also got to see the corn and tobacco on display, though I was clueless as to what criteria go into their evaluation.

I guess I had little to no culinary interests as a kid, but as a person who cooks constantly now, I found the food element of the fair to be the most fascinating among its features today. Chefs demonstrated their abilities at the Evan Williams-sponsored presentation of cooking with bourbon.

Following my consumption of such greasy perversions as the Hot Brown on a Stick and the staple corn dog, my mom guided me to the far side of the fairgrounds where the Kentucky Proud tent had some wonderful dinner options. The Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producer’s Association, Kentucky Cattleman’s Association, Kentucky Aquaculture Association, Kentucky Country Ham, Kentucky Pork Producers and the Kentucky State Dairy Association all had stands representing their food products. We enjoyed savory barbecued lamb sandwiches with perfect potato wedges, delicious homemade root beer and some ice cream for dessert.

puffball rabbit2Though I perused the baked goods, quilts, fish and dresses, I didn’t come close to experiencing the magnitude of things people were doing there that day.

As the sun began to set and we drifted toward the rides, we simply observed the parents and their children who were entranced by the magic that the fair can be. There’s something very gorgeous to me about that part of the day at an outdoor area when you’re surrounded by moving objects covered in flashing colorful lights while the directional orange light of the sun illuminates the faces of people having fun.

The fair is a happy experience. I’m glad I got to see it again after all these years. VT`