Showing posts with label county fairs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label county fairs. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Big-city writer spends summer traveling through rural heartland, finds many exotic wonders

Seth Kugel
UPDATE Sept. 6: "When I announced my 'through the heartland' road trip, over 1,000 readers wrote in with tips in the comments section, on Facebook and Twitter and via e-mail. I used as many of your recommendations as possible — but hundreds of good ideas inevitably went unused. That has left me with a choice: share the best with you, or keep them to myself as a personal reserve of story ideas that could last me for years and make my job exceedingly easy," Kugel writes. He decided to share a few more stories about his trip. To read more about Kugel's adventures click here.

Though he writes the Frugal Traveler feature for The New York Times, self-described city slicker Seth Kugel admits that before this summer he knew little about American life outside the big city, So, he decided to spend five weeks this summer traveling from Baton Rouge, La., to Fargo, N.D., visiting 10 states to see what the heart if rural America is all about. What he found is that the South and the Midwest heartland have plenty of exciting and interesting wonders to offer any traveler.

"I’ve made my way through Latin America, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and southern China," Kugel writes. "But a spin through the middle of my own country was every bit as, well, exotic — revealing you don’t have to go abroad to experience new music, annual rites and political views far different from what you find at home."

Kugel, who went to Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota, visited county fairs, museums, national landmarks, the Ozarks, farmers' markets, mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, and off-the-beaten path local establishments. He met Native Americans, farmers, immigrants, and many locals who offered interesting conversation and opinions about everything from politics to immigration. He learned that even though New York is culturally diverse, so is the rest of the country, if yoy just scratch the surface. Mostly he learned that "America far from New York City is a strange and exotic place indeed." (Read more)

During his trip Kugel wrote an introduction, and stories about Louisiana, Memphis, the Ozarks, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota. (Kugel photo: A tractor motors through downtown Pella, Iowa, population 10,000)

Monday, August 27, 2012

State and county fairs succeed in hard times by expanding repertoire of events

In trying times, think different. That's what people in the state and county fair business have been doing this summer, writes Kirsti Marohn of USA Today. They're doing that by adding unique events to attract new visitors and offering low-cost entertainment to families on a budget. It seems that more people are forgoing vacations and looking for things to do closer to home, says Marla Calico, director of education for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, which has 1,100 members in the U.S., Canada and several other countries. "What we have seen is in difficult economic times, fairs actually thrive," Calico says. (Newborn calf photo from Indiana Dairy Council)

Fair organizers have continued to work, reports Marohn, to honor agricultural roots but added non-farm events such as rocket launches and three-on-three basketball tournaments in Indiana's Elkhart County, marketing manager Kristy Ambrosen says. "It's not necessarily that you have to be a farm kid to enjoy it," she says. There, the 4-H Fair, a nine-day event in July, attracted nearly 245,000 people — up 4 percent from 2011. There, visitors could also watch exciting farm happenings like calves being born or watch chefs from popular local restaurants demonstrate how to prepare dishes using garden produce. "We always have it in our mind that there are a large portion of fair guests that are coming in the gate that are not regularly exposed to agriculture," Ambrosen says. Other fairs around the country have tried salsa-making contests, wine gardens, strolling entertainers, even historic villages, where volunteers dress up in period costumes and cook traditional foods. (Read more)

Monday, August 06, 2012

CDC warns of 12 new cases of swine flu, 10 linked to swine exposure at county fair in southwest Ohio

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials in Atlanta say 29 human cases of the new strain of the H3N2 swine flu have been confirmed in the last year, including 12 last week. Ten of the new cases were linked to the Butler County Fair in southwest Ohio, which ended last weekend. The county is just north of Cincinnati. None of the cases have been tied to human-to-human transmission, and all 12 of the new patients had close contact with swine before getting sick. The two other new cases occurred in Hawaii and Indiana. (CBS News photo)

Health officials told CBS that those attending state and county fairs should avoid taking food and drinks into barns, and should wash their hands after they have been near animals. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk for developing the flu strain.  So far, the strain hasn't spread easily, and recent cases have been mild. (Read more)

Being deep-fried at a fair takes on new meaning in drought and heat wave

In much of rural America, it's that most wonderful time of year -- fair season. A time when country life is on proud display, where generations of farm families gather and deep-fried foods seem guiltless. But at many county and state fairs this year, the most widespread drought since the 1950s is also evident, reports Monica Davey of The New York Times. (Keeping cool at the Ozaukee County Fair in Wisconsin was a full-time job; NYT photo by Darren Hauck)

“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)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Volunteers at your county fair deserve recognition

All over rural America this summer, thousands of community-minded volunteers are braving record heat, thunderstorms and the inevitable hassles of a county fair to make theirs a success. Every fair has one or more volunteers who really make that happen, and they deserve recognition in the local news media and beyond.

My favorite fair volunteer is my wife, Patti Cross, and she is the subject of a very nice feature story by Kristina Betsworth and photos by Tricia Spaulding in today's edition of The State Journal in Frankfort, Ky., in the wake of last week's Franklin County Fair. Since this item is personal, and the point of it is to encourage other papers to follow suit, I'll limit our excerpt to the last three paragraphs of the story:

In the end, Patti says all of her hard work pays off.

“All it takes is one or two little faces beaming after they have won a competition or ridden a midway ride or had their first funnel cake or seen their first sheep,” she said.

“The enjoyment of the community is what it is all about.”

The State Journal's site is subscriber-only, but if you want a copy of the story e-mail me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Horse breeders' incentives will exclude those who intentionally injure Tennessee Walking Horses

Breeders who intentionally injure their Tennessee Walking Horses will no longer be eligible for benefits from the Kentucky Walking Horse Association's breeders incentive fund. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's new standards seek to eliminate the practice of "soaring," intentionally injuring a horse to exaggerate its showy gait, reports Janet Patton of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The new guidelines will allow the fund, suspended since February, to be reinstated, but also call for inspectors from one of three anti-soaring activist groups to be used in determining eligible recipients. The Herald-Leader and state investigations discovered that despite assurances from Earl Rogers, head of the KWHA incentive fund, a dozen fund recipients had been cited for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act in 2008. Rogers would not comment to Patton about the new regulations.

Donna Bennefield, administrative director of the Horse Protection Council, told Patton, "I think this is going to be a huge, huge incentive to fix a very long problem." Kentucky Horse Racing Commissioner Ned Bonnie said, "It [new rules] puts Kentucky in the leadership position with respect to how you treat horses." (Read more)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seeking cheaper thrills, more folks frequent fairs

The start of summer means there will be a county fair going on somewhere near you for the next several weeks. And you might find more people there than usual because they're looking for less expensive entertainment, Hugo Martin reports for the Los Angeles Times in the paper's "Snapshots of the Recession" series. (Times photo by Myung Chun)

"County fair and livestock show operators across the country have reported strong attendance numbers this spring and early this summer," Martin writes. "Why? Experts suggest that in tough economic times, Americans turn to county fairs for nearby, inexpensive, convenient and family-friendly entertainment."

"When we go through difficult times, we stay close to what we know and what we love," Marla Calico, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, which represents about 1,300 fairs worldwide, told Martin. (Read more)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Only half of country-music fans have Internet at home, so are beyond much industry marketing

A recent survey for the Country Music Association found that only 50 percent of country music fans have Internet access at home – a fact that has left both executives and artists disheartened at the loss of marketing potential, The Washington Post reports.

Younger artists like Taylor Swift maintain a heavy online presence, from MySpace to Facebook, to an official domain through their respective record companies. Some groups, like Lady Antebellum, “owes its very existence to the Internet,” Melinda Newman writes. Even after the band was picked up by a production company, almost a third of their first album sales were digital. Older artists too, are being pushed by producers to expand their online use and fan base.

Reba McEntire (signing autographs in photo by Billy Kingsley of The Tennessean) now blogs and is on Twitter, and recently moved her bimonthly newsletter, which used to be mailed to more than 50,000 fans, onto her Web site.

Despite the love of the music, nearly 42 percent of fans were not interested in trying to obtain Internet access. One, Chuck Taulbee, lives in Stockton, Mo., where broadband is not available. As for his options, "It's dial-up, and it's just too expensive,” he says. The high costs of dial up, as well as concerns about online content, are why most fans remain uninterested, Newman reports. Of particular concern to CMA is that “countryphiles,” who are “more likely to be female than male, between the ages of 25 and 39, married, white and from small towns” drive almost half of all country music revenue, and they can’t be reached with Internet. (Read more)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

After complaints from atheists, Tenn. county fair says they can get 'God and Country Day' discount

The Wilson County Fair in Tennessee has agreed to extend its "God and Country Day" discount to atheists after they complained, reports J.R. Lind of the Lebanon Democrat.

"God and Country Day, by tradition the first Sunday of the fair, is designed to honor military veterans, while at the same time giving a $2 discount to fairgoers who bring a church bulletin to the James E. Ward Agricultural Center," Lind writes for the daily paper. "Wilson County Promotions, which runs the fair, is non-governmental, though the Ag Center is owned by Wilson County government. The fair catalog entry for God and Country Day does not mention Christianity and specifically notes that the bulletin must be "from the weekend" of God and Country Day, ostensibly allowing anyone who attended a religious service between Friday and Sunday the opportunity to get the discount."

The complaint came from American Atheists Inc., which contended the discount was unconstitutional and discriminatory. Its press release said members of its group and others would bring printouts of their Web sites to qualify for the discount, and Wilson County Promotions said it would honor them, Lind reports. (Read more)

Wilson County, which borders Nashville, has long been in transition from rural to suburban, and its residents are now more the latter than the former. Its estimated population in 2006 was about 104,000, and the average commuting time of its residents was 27.5 minutes; the national average was 25 minutes. Local officials and developers have proposed it as the site for a Bible theme park; here's a story from Clay Carey of The Tennessean. Here is Lind's latest report on the proposal.

UPDATE, Aug. 16: The Democrat really covers the fair and horse show, expected to draw 400,000. Read about vendors. New this year: FairCam (source of photo).

UPDATE, Aug. 20: Lind reports, "Sunday, around 30 atheists and other non-theists came to the James E. Ward Agriculture Center and were admitted, along with churchgoers, at the lower price. Many of the atheists wore t-shirts saying they supported 'Foxhole Atheists,' a project that provides care packages for servicemembers who do not believe in God. Likewise, many churchgoers wore t-shirts proclaiming their beliefs." (Read more)