My favorite, FAVORITE part of the county fair is the livestock auction, where steers, hogs, market lambs, and meat goats are shown by the kids and sold to the highest bidder. When my dad owned his farm supply store, he was a huge supporter of the local youth fair (as was my grandpa before him) and bought several steers each year in order to provide each of his employees with a side of beef (and let me tell you, we were thoroughly spoiled by this bounty, as we now have to BUY beef from the grocery store like regular people and it's REALLY EXPENSIVE). And although my friend Christine thinks I'm crazy, I love the hogs the best, because (a) they can't be forced to do ANYTHING, (b) they scream like little girls when they don't get their way, and (c) they entertain themselves in the show ring by eating poop.
Here's a little fun story: when we were first married and living in California, I made my husband go to the local county fair (we lived outside of LA in a rural county). He had never been to one before and was fascinated by the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion steers, which would be auctioned off a few nights later.
"What happens when they get auctioned?" he asked me.
"They go to the meat processor and get butchered," I answered.
"WHY?!" he asked, aghast. "If it's a Grand Champion, wouldn't you want to breed it?!"
I took a long, hard look at him before deciding he was serious and asked gently, "Honey, do you know what it means to be a steer?"
He did not, and if you don't, either, then I'm totally laughing AT you, not WITH you. Look it up. (This also explains why, when we decided to move back to Missouri, my husband went to work for his dad at the mortuary rather than MY dad at the farm supply store.)
State fairs are like a county fair on steroids and are held in September and October. Besides all the livestock and 4-H exhibits, they also have big carnival midways, all kinds of food vendors, mostly of the fried variety, and entertainment in the grandstand, from tractor pulls to national recording artists.
The Missouri State Fair is in the middle of August. We used to go occasionally when I was a kid, but I hadn't been in exactly 30 years (at which time I did NOT go to see the livestock and I shall leave it at that). I've wanted to take my kids there, since we all enjoy the county youth fair, but it was always held right as school started and we couldn't do it (especially since it's a good three hour drive from here). But THIS year was different. My preschoolers don't start school until after Labor Day, which is really late this year, and I don't go back to work until two weeks before that, so I was free to go to the fair; I only needed someone to go with me. When I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to go and needed to find someone to go with me (both kids were already in school and my husband is still stinging a little bit from the whole "steer breeder" thing), my dad said, "Take me! Take me!"
So I did.
And I'll tell you all about it tomorrow....