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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Year, Another County Fair

This year was another year for the Lake County Fair. I was able to get to the fair the day before it ended, there was no way I'd miss it. This fair holds fond memories as the first county fair I'd ever attended. (Check out my post about the 2011 experience). This year was worth writing about again. The weather was nice enough for healthy agricultural exhibits and happy animals. I knew the lay of the land this time. With no heat to slow me down, I methodically worked through the fair.

First stop, a cheese curd brunch. I had readied myself for a quest for the perfect cheese curd, but seemed to hit gold my very first stop. They were light and crisp. The cheese was creamy and salty (but not too salty). All of the crisp little nuggets were full of cheese too, no empty shells of batter. Well worth the $6.

We stopped by to watch the horse barrel races while we let the curds cool. It was wild to me that we could be sitting on the metal benches, with no shade, on an August fair day! There was a little cloud coverage, but it was wonderfully cool. We sat through a few different sets and ate up our fried cheese.

We continued on to visit some of the farm animals. We caught the pigs napping, the newly sheared sheep keeping warm, and the cows chewing up hay. The different types of animals always fascinates me. We saw a big Longhorn Steer. We saw baby dairy cows. We saw gilts, sows, and a litter of piglets. One 4-H exhibit showed how to read the notches in the pigs' ears to tell which litter they were in and what order they were born.

With the cool air managing the barnyard stink, I still had an appetite. 

It was just past noon, and my favorite food truck was now open, Da Portable Rican. This food truck was my oasis last year. They serve up another option in a sea of Elephant Ears and corn dogs. We got rellenos de papas (fried balls of mashed potatoes stuffed with deliciously seasoned beef) and lechón (slow cooked pork) with arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas). We also ordered a nice icy coquito (non-alcoholic of course), not that we needed the cooling down. The past two years their food truck has been on the far side of the midway next to the grandstand (note it for next year). We climbed up into the arena seating and savored our delicious Puerto Rican food.

We hit up all of the exhibit buildings. We had to wait until we finished our coquito before we could go to the 4-H hall, so we saved that until later. We saw the giant sunflowers, bright floral arrangements, and healthy entries for a number of flower types. With the cool weather, everything was vibrant, not wilted and shriveled from the heat. The winning pumpkin weighed in at 754.5 lbs and the other winning squash was 141.5 lbs. Amazing in this odd growing season. Giant heads of garlic and perfect specimens of local veg covered the tables. There were gourds, and fruits, and honey bees. I noticed that the farmer who provides veg as part of my CSA membership won several first place ribbons for squash and even tomatillo. I saw vegetable oddities: carrots intertwined in a lasting embrace, cucumbers growing through chicken wire, and grumpy potatoes.

The 4-H hall is always a highlight. It's great seeing what the kids are up to. The dioramas were set up depicting farm life near and far. Cakes were decorated as pies, buildings, and puppies. The reports were on the wall for research ranging from movies, pet training, animal breed characteristics, and classic literature. An 8th grader's take on Orwell's 1984 was an interesting read. 

The arts and craft exhibits are a second favorite for me. The interesting photos, the carefully canned fruit and veg, the slices of pie melting in the heat (though this time they were in a fridge and intact), the unique antiques, and the handcrafted quilts really make you feel like you're surrounded by locals. I overheard a boy asking his grandma about an old type writer, "So it's like a printer then, right?" He asked about the keys, the paper, this young boy was really interested!

We saw a couple of more booths and then went for our second round of fair food. We circled back to the cheese curd source and picked up a dozen (or so) freshly fried, tiny, sugary donuts. $3.50 got us a big scoop of donuts and about a cup of cinnamon sugar. We watched more horse barrel races as we waited for the donuts to cool. These were the pros. Their horses seemed bigger as they tightly circled the three barrels strategically placed in the dirt. They were running through it in 17 seconds or less. Crunchy, doughy, sweet donuts, a nice breeze, and horses racing, who could ask for anything more?

On our way out we went to the Poultry Barn. I was planning on avoiding it after last year when we saw the birds ripping out their own feathers and obviously in distress. This year, they seemed fine. As we made our way down the aisles we saw eggs in some of the cages. They were laying them faster than the organizers could grab them. These were happy chickens. A duck and her ducklings were cuddling in their darkened cage. Little chicks were gathered together in the corner of a large cage. We saw the standard birds and the fancy birds. Chickens, pheasants, and geese were on display.

We walked back to the car recounting our favorites of the day. I was happy with what we saw and what we ate. 
I could have went for the corn dog, the giant chicken tender on a stick, the smoked pork chops, but I was very satisfied with my picks that cool fair day. 

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