Sunday, August 17, 2014

County Fair 2014

Grand Champion garden box at the Waushara County Fair, 2014
Well, it is end of the summer signaled here in Waushara County by the county fair.  It is also the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Wisconsin.  Although the motto is "100 years and going strong,"  I feel that may be wishful thinking on the part of the state organization.  To my eyes, it appeared there were a lot fewer entries this year over last in junior and open classes.  It may be the 4-Hers' priorities are more appropriately set on service projects of which I do not hear across the county, but I do not know if that is truly the case.

Zinnias on display backed by a pink geranium, the colors of summer on display.

'Celebrity' tomato
I couldn't help but contrast this year's fair with previous years and the years when I was a teen participating in 4-H.Weather conditions have also had an impact.  It was the first year I have seen 'Celebrity' tomatoes not given a ribbon nor even entered ripe.  The First and third place ribbons in open class went to 'Arkansas Traveler', second place to 'Wisconsin 55'.  I couldn't help but notice the Grand Champion garden box had the heirloom Japanese Black Trifele tomato as a selection.  Although this tomato supposedly ripens in 80-90 days, which we have had frost-free; tomatoes other than cherry tomatoes take a bit of heat to ripen properly.  Heat, we have not had.  This Japanese Black Trifele might be worth growing if our summers stay a bit cooler.

There were lots of beautiful potted coleus on display, 'this is I believe 'Alabama Sunset'.

As to perennial flowers displayed, the phlox were the nicest.  I think I have this one with the white eye in my own Long Border.

Every year either 'King Arthur' or 'California Wonder' take the prize for best green pepper.  I have been told they are one and the same.  So if you want to get the most/best peppers regardless of the weather, this is the variety you should include.

Each year, against my notions of growing onions in Wisconsin, a yellow sweet Spanish onion takes the first place ribbon.  I am not sure how that is possible, nor how they get this large.
There seemed to be a lot fewer entries overall in the fair from my days as a 4H-er.  The livestock seems to have gone over completely to the market class, where the animal is exhibited and auctioned off to be butchered.  When I was in 4-H the emphasis in livestock was on conformation and showmanship.  Those animals displayed for showmanship class became big pets.

The animals were easy to work with in the dairy herd and had a long life there.  One of the animals I exhibited "worked" in my Dad's milking herd for thirty years and was allowed to die and be buried on the farm (not the typical end to a dairy animal).  Her bloodline runs through the herd like a river.

These days with the market class the animals go to fair and then off to butcher shops.  One of the local butcher shops even gives regular tours to the market class exhibitors showing how the animal will be dressed out and what sort of cuts of meat their animal provides.  I might be a tad squeamish, and my culinary moves away from red meat may be telling here, but I don't think it would have been a class I would have exhibited in.  Lucky for me, the market class exhibit began in 1986.

The market class auction makes big news in the local weekly paper, though as many of the local businesses bid on these animals and either donate the meat, use it for company picnics, a bonus for employees, or serve it on their menus.  For restaurants, a locally-raised grass and grain fed animal featured on their menu is a big plus, and not just for the restaurant, but the restaurant patron and the exhibitor who receives the cash pay out.
There were a good number of yellow banana peppers exhibited, not many green and no red sweet peppers.

 I liked both this oil painting of very earthy carrots and this melted crayon work done on canvas in the fine arts divisions.  I would hang either on a wall in my own home.

What was quite disappointing was the trend to fewer and fewer items displayed in both Open and Junior classes in the sewing project.  There were just three small carousels on display.  I would guess the number of items close to the combined efforts of just the members of my own club back in the day.

Nothing stood out in the cooking or canning classes, although many canned items did not appear to have the appropriate head space, which from a canner's perspective was troubling.  A jar of salsa made with yellow and orange tomatoes took the Grand Champion ribbon.  Hopefully, they added the appropriate amount of lemon juice to assure the correct acidity lacking in so many of these non-red tomato varieties.

Somehow I feel the a visit to the county fair is a finger on the pulse of our rural community.  Is that pulse weakening?

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