Posted Friday, August 3, 2018 by Kerry McFall
Where else can you find out if you’re going to Heaven, uncover your true psychic aura, pet a sting ray, marvel at bull bollocks, interact with robots, eat fried Twinkies, and see the results of a table-setting competition? In this part of the world, nowhere but at the Benton County Fair and Rodeo. The fair has changed very little over my lifetime, which is good in many ways, although I’m sure my Uncle Paul would tsk at the pitiful size of the squash in the produce area.
The most treasured and enduring tradition for me is cowboys in well-fitting bluejeans. Praise Be that they never fell victim to the style of droopy drawers or drag-ass cargo pants. Add that walk they do in those boots… melts my butter as Dolly would sigh. True, there may be fewer exhibits in general as we fall prey to the changes in our world. Women don’t sew much any more, so there aren’t many quilts or prom dresses. Not many folks put up preserves apparently, or bake pies either. Maybe I just didn’t run into the old-school wood-working and fly tying exhibits.
But what will never change is the awkwardness of the young people as they strut their stuff through the carnival, pairing off or ganging up, smirking, giggling, whispering, enacting the same dramas that have been played out since tribes had potlatch and clans gathered to throw tree trunks around. And wonder of wonders, very few people of any age were staring at their cell phones!
If you take the time to wander through the animal areas, you’ll find that country kids still learn and practice manners. Several 4H teens made a point of greeting me, and even cheerfully put up with my questions and comments.
In the Improvements Noted department, the good news is you can drink beer pretty much anywhere on the grounds except the Carnival and inside the buildings, no more being corralled into a dusty little beer garden. However based on the old college-era acquaintances I ran into in the concert area, the guys who couldn’t dance back then still haven’t learned how. Oh well, at least they’re still enthusiastic about the music!
The county fair is a rarefied atmosphere, and that’s what makes it all the more endearing. Don’t miss it!