PUEBLO, Colo. — A few weeks ago, my Facebook feed filled up with tractor pulls, petting zoos and baking competitions. Fair season had arrived.
Growing up in Vermont, my hometown fair was Addison County Farm and Field Days, which we always just called field days. A small event drawing together the longtime dairy farmers who help make up the backbone of my home state, the fair offered a chance for this kid of English parents to learn about milking cows, throwing hay and eating maple ice cream. (It's also where I first discovered that roller coasters don't agree with me or my stomach, especially when filled with the already-mentioned maple ice cream or Al's French Fries.)
For many Americans, their county and state fairs remain an important way to stay close to our country's farming and ranching roots. And based on my trip to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo this week, those connections remain strong.
Dozens of dozing bunnies napped in the heat as roosters crowed, pigs grunted and bulls bellowed.
My assignment was to eat the most interesting foods I could find. And boy did I find them. You can't really say you've been to an American fair until you've had deep-fried peanut butter and jelly
I conducted my taste test in front of a slingshot-style ride, but I wisely avoided a ride after filling up on deep-fried Twinkies, corn dogs and Nutella (yes, they can deep-fry Nutella and it's as delicious as you might imagine!).
Fairs also offer an opportunity to meet the most interesting folks, and on my trip John Beatty topped that list.
An operating room nurse at a hospital in Illinois, Beatty several decades ago developed a real skill for bending steel to his will, with the help of his massive hands and biceps. Beatty travels to fairs and exhibitions, performing as an old-style circus strongman.
He twists horseshoes into heart-shaped pretzels and rolls frying pans into a metal approximation of a burrito. He buys the pans in three packs, and jokes that local stores should give him a cut of all the frying pans that fairgoers buy to replace the ones they try bending after going home.
Like seeing a strongman, county and state fairs are a chance for us to see things we might not normally see, from a newborn calf to a water buffalo. I also saw some real interesting outfits, petted some sheep and got squawked at by a pigeon.
Your fair experiences will invariably be different. And hopefully, so will your eating decisions.