The County Fair: Where Animals Compete in Beauty Pageants

Point of clarification–this post is a conflation of two fairs: Elizabethtown, PA and Canfield, OH. I got to go to two fairs in one week. Tis the season!

It’s called “showmanship” and thankfully there’s no swimsuit competition. But all the other trappings of a pageant are alive and…kicking. It’s about presentation and exhibition. Yup, those are legit words. The goal is to demonstrate your animal’s best characteristics. I missed the Q&A session, but I think the contestants here are less about feeding the world’s children and more about vegetarianism.

I mean no disrespect to the people who work so hard to raise and compete their animals. It’s just that any sort of aesthetic contest is rather silly. When you then show traits of market beef, pocket pets, and poultry I’m admittedly flabbergasted. And bemused. I can’t help it.

All that aside, it’s AWESOME to see animals who aren’t in a zoo. I struggle with zoos: captivity for our education. And don’t tell me an eagle who was raised under human care is happy about a 12×12 space with a net on top so it won’t fly away. Some say the animals don’t know differently. But if that’s the case, then why is there a net to counter the instinct to fly?

Alright, I’ve been snarky, possibly disrespectful, and political. Shall we move on?

Competition for Inanimate Objects

The living don’t get the monopoly on beauty pageants, people. Tractors do, too. Mostly for the oldest, which is sweet. And I’ll tell you, all those tractors lined up is a pretty sight.

Oldest Tractor at the County Fair

Feeding a Cow from a Milk Bottle

I’d only seen it in movies, so didn’t know if it was true. But it is! Look at the calf’s eye–it’s saying would you stop staring at me while I eat? Manners, please. The woman with her hands in the mouths of babes: they’re waiting their turn to feed, and not so patiently.

Feeding a Cow with a Bottle at the County Fair

Check out the slideshow for other animals–mostly while they eat. Notice no pictures of pigs: my Aunt who works at the CDC scared me about swine flu. Click the pic to advance to the next image.

Shopping at the Fair

Candles, gazebos, linens (bc you want to tote those around all day), and dog bones. To be clear, the bones are FOR the dogs. And they’re plentiful. And gruesome. And awesome.

Dog bones at the County Fair

Creature Comforts

While port-a-potties are the way to, umm, go, they also look out for nursing mothers with a Baby Comfort Station. This should not be confused with the Milking Parlor in the South Cattle Complex. That would be awkward.

It’s all Fun and Games Until Someone Loses their Lunch

My friend Mandi invited me to the Pennsylvania Fair and she and I were all about the rides. Mandi has special skills and knows their names–I didn’t even know they have names.

We both laugh uncontrollably while being flung hither and yon, so we were a good pair. When I start laughing hollow and raspy like a Grandpa, you know I’m having a blast. When Mandi transitions from Tilt-A-Whirl to Tilt-A-Hurl, you raise your hand panicked in hopes that the dazed ride operator will see and stop. He didn’t.

Sweet Mandi has control that astronauts would praise, and after water and gum, we were back in the saddle. And by “back in the saddle” I mean we made a beeline to go home. (Don’t fret about Mandi’s sensitivity to my posting this. The minute she got home she told everyone on Facebook. So it’s fair to say that this is already public and part of her lore.)

Fried Food and Animal Smells. Yum.

I was on a mission to try fried Oreos. Once I realized it’s not breading like friend chicken (yes, I thought this), and instead is cake batter, I was in. I shouldn’t have been.

It tastes like Indian fry bread, which I haven’t had in 15 years, but it came to mind before funnel cake.  At first you get a flavor of dough and essence of fry.  Then there’s a finish/after taste of Oreo chocolate but not the cream filling.

It’s kinda mealy. I didn’t like it, which was both a bummer and a relief.

Fried Oreos

Demolition Derby

I don’t quite know why I was so excited for the Demolition Derby. It was misguided enthusiasm. Unless you like being cramped on a bleacher so narrow that you’re forced to sit in an un-ladylike way just to maintain circulation.  Or love the smell of airports when you’re already nauseous. No one’s going to bottle the smell of a Derby and market it as perfume. Burning rubber and disintegrating cars. Delightful!

Eight cars line up in two rows, trunk to trunk. And then ram into each other. Repeatedly. Until they’re on fire, wiped out, torn apart. The end.

Drivers must be 18–there are standards. Take out all seats but the driver’s, remove glass, and possibly seal all doors and the trunk? I couldn’t understand the garbled announcer over the roar of the packed stadium.

Tires tend to blow first, so you can’t get traction. Hence the delicious smell of burnt rubber. And you must, you must, alternate hits between cars–it’s bad form to hit the same car over and over. The cardinal rule is not to hit the driver side. Good.

If a car is still functional, it’ll drive again in future bout. But most cars are towed away in a motley parade of crumbled-ness.

Please pardon the terrible quality of the pics–I was too far away. Perhaps a good thing?

Demolition Derby - waiting for the games to start

All the drivers, waiting for their turn.

Damage at the Demolition Derby

You know you want to watch a video…

Getting out of your Bubble World

Yup, I’d say that happened. And then I went home and showered.


What are your favorite county fair stories?
What fried food do you love?

3 Responses


Corndogs, hands down.


The colors in your photos are so vibrant. They really capture the energy at these fairs … and the spinning colors in my head and stomach from the rides. Great post. Keep ’em coming.


Fried okra is my recent love.

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