“You see the stress of this all on individuals everywhere you go, even the fair,” said Vivian Hallett, who most years has entries (and winners) in nearly every imaginable plant category at the Coles County Fair in Illinois. Not this year. “We just didn’t have the stuff,” said Hallett, 65. “All our pumpkins have died. Zucchinis? Dead. Our green beans are just sitting there turning rubbery. And my gladiolas never came up at all.”
Bad, yes, but human attendance has shriveled, to -- the combination, organizers say, of miserably hot weather and larger, overwhelming concerns back home on the farms. “It was the roughest I’ve seen,” said Gary Shemanski, facilities manager at the Johnson County Fair in Iowa. There, he told Davey, attendance fell, four rabbits perished in heat that exceeded 100 degrees, and a beloved, final fireworks display was canceled for fear of setting off a blaze in the bone-dry county.
Why go at all? Because, organizers say, rural families may need a distraction more than ever. “The fair is just in your blood — you don’t think about it, you just go,” said Jean Klug, 63, of Cedarburg, Iowa. “It’s just country living,” said Bob Hartwig, who added that his children had intended to bring five cows to Wisconsin's Ozaukee County Fair but downsized to three just as his family was weighing downsizing a larger herd at home. Fair organizers say they are bracing for the possibility of still more fallout next year, writes Davey, when raising an extra pig for a fair may become an impossible luxury. “They may decide feed prices are just too high the next time,” said Brian Bolan, agriculture director for the Wisconsin State Fair. (Read more)