Meet Me at the Fair

Last week was the annual Carroll County Fair.

Before I moved to the Ozarks it had been 30 years since my last forray into fair participation. I had a $50 mustang filly when I was a kid and I rode gymkhana for a couple of years. I also entered my metal and wood shop projects. The ribbons and satisfaction of the fair were very distant memories.

A few years ago some friends mentioned entering paintings and photos in the fair. I didn’t even know that grown-ups could do such a thing. I checked the rules for participation – technically since I haven’t made diddly squat selling prints, I’m an amateur. I’m not sure how I feel about that in light of my zillion years of experience…

I checked out the categories and picked my best shots to print and enter and – voila – ribbons ensued. Did you know they pay you for the ribbons? That first year I made about 16 bucks in cold hard cash – nevermind that I have three times that in printing and mounting. I was a cash award winner! At this rate in about a hundred years I would be categorized as a professional by the Carroll County Fair Board of Trustees.

The very next year I got my first Pen system camera and tried a bunch of artsy things with old lenses from the 70s. I had a new tripod, a new camera, some old glass and a bellows – I shot this…

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Reserve Grand Champion – thank you very much…and I scored 75 bucks! Woooohoooo!

I gave my winnings to Mary Jane my neighbor, it was her flower after all.

For the first couple of years the judges apparently wanted everyone to feel good so they gave out tons of ribbons with no apparent system – the only reason that you might not get one was that you entered your photo in the wrong category. Last year they changed it up. Three places per category. 1st place in each category considered for Grand Champion. Fewer ribbons – less cash – actual judging and results. Some people took this really hard. No ribbon meant that no one liked their work. People took it all too personal. Me, I really could give a rip about the ribbons or the cash – for me it’s about whittling down a years worth of photos to 15-18 pieces that you think are your best. I shoot between 12,000-15,000 photos a year, that’s a lot of whittling.

This year I took home the blue ribbon in 4 of 9 categories, but who’s counting. I bet I make at least 8 bucks! Here’s a few of my shots from this year:

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Our county fair does not have legendary fair food, nothing on a stick. It also boasts no butter sculpture, no live bands, no wristband passes. It does have one room of exhibits that includes fine art, dioramas, cookies, jam, and vegetables – none of which are for public consumption. It’s so odd to see a plates of cookies under Saran wrap sitting on a shelf with a ribbons on them – I wonder if cookie bakers have to prove amateur status?

Anyway, I love going to the fair in spite of its deficiencies – I love going to the fair and taking photos. I’ve already posted my chickens, but I also got a chance to spend some lens time with the goats…

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Of course no fair is complete without carnival rides and for me the perfect time is right after the sun goes down. I actually brought the wrong lens with me, I thought I had my fast portrait lens, instead I had my macro. I think it worked out though. Zipper, Tilt-a-whirl, carousel – these rides never change…

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There’s something sweet and nostalgic about walking through a fair and seeing your neighbor’s best cookies, or watermelons, or chickens, or photos.

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12 thoughts on “Meet Me at the Fair

  1. Love the goats and the sentiments too. At this rate you’ll be a multi-millionaire by the age of 250. LOL.

    But the important thing is to enjoy those simple pleasures that are free.

    To truly be alive and live in the moment. To be mindful in every daily activity and feel blessed for every small fun-filled moment.

    I don’t think I have ever been to a country town fair. Not sure on that statement. My short term memory is appalling.

    • Thanks. I grew up in a city that was growing rapidly and now I live outside of a city of 2200 people. Things like the fair are a part of the culture of the community. I can be sarcastic, but there is something really sweet about small town life.

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