Fair Season Is Starting

Town and Country

County and state fairs contribute to the local community in more ways than one.

Published on: July 19, 2013

Across the U.S., county fairs and state fairs are right around the corner, or already happening. For 4-Hers and FFA members, this often means preparing for livestock shows, whether it's cattle, pigs, goats or sheep. For some, it also means pitching in in whatever way possible, either by helping set up for the kiddie pedal tractor pull or by working the concession stand, which was the case for my FFA chapter back home.

Fairs take a lot of people to help out and make them possible. However, it's often overlooked how fairs impact the local community. One way is through food drives. This year, the International Association of Fairs and Expos is holding a worldwide food drive, called "Dream Big," for agricultural fairs to collect and package meals for their local communities – with the goal of collecting 20 million pounds total.

While many fairs already do drives like this, a counter on the IAFE website keeps track of the amount raised so far. Although fair season isn't yet in full swing, the totals are just shy of 200,000 pounds at the moment. In a recent discussion with IAFE director of education, Marla Calico, she mentioned some fairs already hold book drives and clothing drives in addition to food drives, in addition to all the other ways fair volunteers and employees get involved in the community.

Influencing the community goes back to the early World's Fairs – which is particularly interesting to me, having a background in American Studies and having taken a couple classes covering fairs. Although a World's Fair hasn't taken place in the U.S. since 1984 at the Louisiana World's Exposition in New Orleans, they still take place in countries like Spain, Italy, China, Japan, the U.K., and most recently, South Korea.

Back when the U.S. held them, these gargantuan fairs provided seasonal jobs, and gave a look at what "utopian" and futuristic societies might look like. Fairs like the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition gave birth to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and the Midway Plaisance, which is now part of the University of Chicago. They also showcased new technology and progress – similar to the more regionalized fairs and expos today.