Where I grew up — Champaign County, Ohio — the word fair is viewed with a respect approaching the sacred. And you use the word without the article “the” to clutter up its significance. As in “Well, Fair is coming up and the tomatoes won’t be big enough to show by then.” or, “She can’t come over — she’ll be at Fair all week.”
I used to be at Fair all week when I was a kid — or at least as close to all week as my mom would allow. I even stayed all night one time with my 4-H club, sleeping in the barn alongside my gently snoring goats, carted to Fair so that the whole world could see how amazing they were, just like Wilbur — only without the brilliance of Charlotte to highlight their attributes.
I’ve been away from where I live in New England for a few weeks now, back in Ohio visiting my family with plenty of time to revisit sites of so much youthful significance — and I’ve managed to not only attend the Ohio State Fair, but also catch the Champaign County Fair, which was every bit as great as I remembered. From the horse barns to rabbit auctions to harness racing to local food booths, the Champaign County Fair distills rural life into a picturesque, if superficial, package that both lifelong residents and urban hipsters can appreciate, ironically or otherwise.
Modern rural life is full of confusion, with Big Agriculture encouraging, or mandating — depending on your perspective — genetically-modified franken-foods and chemically-altered franken-livestock (no chicken on earth can live up to the puffy, oversized expectations of your average 4-H judge without some serious hormonal intervention), but the old-fashioned County Fair makes all of that confusion go away for a week or so, or at least covers it with a layer of freshly-laid sweet-smelling sawdust, and we can all pretend that a way of life, in actuality nearly extinct, is alive and well and that all those blue-ribbon winning jars of jam we saw at the Fair prove it.