Summer typically brings a lot of family fun in the sun, from splashing in water and entertaining in the back yard to, of course, gardening. By the middle to end of the season, though, you may start to feel like you’ve already done it all: swimming, vacation, family barbecues, baseball games. But you and your family still have time to enjoy a great seasonal event…under “fair” conditions.

Blue ribbon squash

The award-winning yellow summer squash!

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Blue ribbon cow

Winners in state fair contests receive the coveted blue ribbon. (MOOve over, competition!)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the New York State Fair

Llama

Now here’s something you don’t see everyday…

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the New York State Fair

Midway

State fairs are fun for the kids, too!

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the New York State Fair

State fairs promise fun-filled times for everyone, no matter what age. You say you’ve never been to a state fair? Well, okay, I hadn’t either until about six years ago. For years I judged the horticulture exhibits and competitions at local county fairs, but then I went to The Great New York State Fair, and wow – what an eye-opener it was for me! I was introduced to some amazing sights, like the New York State butter sculpture, along with dazzling displays of vegetables, fruit, flowers and Christmas trees. Then I found the prized cows, sheep, horses, rabbits and more from all across the state. It was just amazing!

Historically speaking, state fairs were first organized by local farmers and agricultural societies to showcase – you guessed it – agriculture. People learned by doing and seeing, and state fairs were a unique way to involve the public and bring great numbers of people together. Daily demonstrations showcased new and improved agricultural and homemaker practices. (A perennial favorite was the display of the latest farm equipment.)

Today’s state fairs have come a long way since their humble beginnings. Now midways full of exciting rides and test-your-skill games continue to draw tens of thousands of people each year. Fireworks light the skies, rodeos kick up the dust, and auto racing ignites the tracks. Let’s not forget the big-name acts that now take center stage at many state fairs, too. And did I mention the food booths? (Seriously – leave your diet at home!) You can literally eat your way across the fairgrounds. Milk shakes, funnel cakes, hamburgers, corn dogs and local specialties – it’s all at the fair!

Thankfully, agriculture remains king at these events, and you’ll still find old favorites going strong. Those US Cooperative Extension 4-H club members still groom their prized horses, cows and sheep, readying them for competition. Homemakers continue to show their fine handiwork with quilts, afghans, pies and jams.

And be sure to check out the horticultural competition at the fair! You’ll find entries from suburbanites, garden club members and scads of home gardeners, all showing off their gardening successes – from single blooms and produce to a variety of arrangements – just waiting to be judged. (Winners take home the coveted blue ribbon and a bit of prize money.)

The state fair is a fun and educational event sure to please your entire family. With tasty treats, winning produce, plants, animals, entertainment and more, there’s truly something for everyone there. Make a day of it, and you and your family will have more than just a “fair” time!