July 22, 2011

Fair-ly Different

The Ionia Free Fair is in town this week! It's a huge event in lower Michigan even though about the only thing you can really do for "free" is walk around the fairgrounds. There are parking fees, grandstand events fees, entry fees to play all the games in the midway, over-priced food and drink vendors, and tickets required - for a fee - should you want to go on the rides.

I remember the days when the purpose of the "Fair" was to gather, socialize and celebrate the harvests, while taking a much-needed intermission from the laborious tasks of farming, raising livestock, and preparing for the coming months of winter.

Folks would bring in their superior produce, crafts, recipes and livestock for the chance to have them judged against those of their neighbors. Families could enter contests, play games, and win ribbons and prizes. Buying, selling and trading were commonplace.

Today, it seems the Fair comes to town a good month before the calves are fattened or the harvests are in. While remnants of tradition remain with the die-hard 4-H'ers and their families, much of what we see is geared more toward achieving a profit while providing instant gratification to fair-goers who have had to exert very little, if any, effort.

Groups of teens range about unsupervised after begging their parents for money to attend. Lines of people wait to board a variety of shabbily-constructed carnival-style rides, while performers conduct mini-circuses for the crowds using animals never meant to "perform" for human pleasure nor to be kept caged in captivity.

Now that my children are much older, I rarely visit the Fair anymore. Occasionally, I'll walk through the livestock barns, watch a tractor-pull event or barrel-racing, or meander through the "flea-market-style" tents of handmade items for sale. Aside from those things, I find that much of the "modernized" Fair presentation just leaves a sour taste for me. Perhaps I'm just aging...or old-fashioned...or, maybe I just should have been born a couple hundred years earlier than I was.
Inspired by her Native American roots and Bradbury lineage, Polly Taskey is a writer and grandmother in the northern USA.  She shares her wisdom and pagan interests through Pagan by Design and The Moonlit Grove.


Kallan said...

Well said and I am in total agreement. We no longer really have those small communities who stick together.. we're a global and internet society.

Kim said...

I agree with you. I'm "old-fashioned" in that way too. We have the state fair in Texas every September, that I avoid like the plague.

Polly said...

Kallan and Kim, it's refreshing to see that I'm not alone in my feelings about "commercialization", "purpose", and the distancing of the bonds of family and community.

I guess, in a way, my friends here really ARE my "extended" community, since we tend to share very similar values.

Brightest Blessings

Judy said...

The Van Buren County fair is this week also...we stopped by today and toured the barns, watched the horses, pet the pigs (heat is hard on the pigs), and oohhed about the classic tractors...It's a 4-H fair and tries to keep that attitude...Check it out next year...

Sunshineshelle said...

It's hard not to be jaded in this commercial world, I know we all have to pay bills, but what's to stop the fairs having 'free' entertainment (petting animals) or local enthusiasts taking about heirloom seeds or how to look after pets or start a home garden, the poor kid's aren't given a chance to learn about this stuff & I'm sure would love to supplement their spending with some fun & informal hands on activities to make it a more affordable & fun day out?

Polly said...

Judy, I will have to do that! It sounds much more like the atmosphere I prefer. Thank you.

Sunshineshelle, I agree, the focus on "family" seems to have drastically shifted, along with the opportunities to teach what is really important and valued.

Our county Fair was rained out and had to shut down a few days early. I can't say that I'm disappointed.

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