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Minnesota County Fairs
SEHT KUGEL: I’ve never been to a county fair in my life before this summer…so after I got a taste of one in Kansas, I decided to go whole-hog in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota. If I’d only known how much I’d love them, I would never have waited this long.
SEHT KUGEL: Farming has changed through generations but it’s still part of the Minnesota bloodline. There are endless acres of agriculture and dairy farming here. And thanks to the latter, they can keep on frying up those great Midwestern cheese curds: they are delicious.
BARRY VISSER, JUDGE, 4-H DAIRY CATTLE SHOW: Exactly…for the fairs we got to produce the cheese curds but, uh, I think we’re somewhere in that…about 45 hundred farms across the state of Minnesota still…um, they range in all shapes and sizes but certainly, that’s less than what we’ve had five, ten and twenty years ago.
SEHT KUGEL: If you’ve been out to county fairs you might know what I didn’t: that youth organizations like 4H and FFA are huge influences here.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Puerto Rico…so, we have lots of students. It’s the largest student organization in the United States.
SETH KUGEL: Livestock competitions were the focus that day. For many student 4H and FFA-ers who brought their cows, hogs, rabbits – just about to name it – to be paraded before judges.
DARRELL FOSTERVOLD, PRESIDENT, KANDIYOHI COUNTY FAIR: You come to the fair, the first thing you need here is look up the different types of animals. We have the dairy fair cows, we have the beef cows, sheep, pigs, llamas, goats. We have rabbits, we have chickens, we have, um, I think another one. What are the animals we’ve mentioned? Did I mention llamas? We have llamas.
SETH KUGEL: The pageantry behind these competitions really went beyond my wildest … dreams. And the judging? That was an art form in itself.
SETH KUGEL: This is enough to make any city-slicker blush. You have to wonder what the other livestock competitions are like. Some of these animals seemed more petting zoo than fierce competitors, at least I thought.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You can show any number of species so sometimes …
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What about rabbits? That just seems to be a little bit low key, like not so exciting.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The rabbits can be exciting. I also show rabbits. So anybody at the fair can show absolutely anything.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: We had a couple rabbits but then, somehow, we got babies. And then, ‘cause…
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: They got in the same cage.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Yeah, somehow they got in the same cage and we didn’t know , we didn’t see it happen…
SETH KUGEL: By the way, this conversation happened moments after these same girls explained to me the complete rules of curling. I am definitely not in my element. I was curious about whether kids who, like me, didn’t grow up on a farm had a way to channel their agricultural instincts.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So if you live in town, grew up in an area where you’re not on a farm, you can contact and be in touch with farms and lease the cattle for the 4H program.
SETH KUGEL: Who ever thought I’d be walking a cow? My friends will hardly recognize me!I wound up my Minnesota stay with one more county fair and I had a blast. But with that, my summer through the middle of the US road trip had come to an end. And come to think of it…I guess that by the time you’re hearing this, I’ll have made it back home to New York City. It’s not every day that people get to travel around the country and write about it, and call that work. I have to admit, I’ve got a great job. But it wouldn’t have been the same without the company.
SETH KUGEL: And so, thank you Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota for your indulgent good company, spirits, and of course food. It was a great summer on the road. This is Seth Kugel, your frugal traveler for the New York Times.
Source: nytimes

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