Bonner Day: My unhappiness with county fairs

Bonner Day

It’s the season once again for county fairs, reminding me once again of a long frustration. The Frederick County fair is over. Warren County’s fair ends today, the Rockingham County Fair begins Aug. 15,  and Shenandoah County begins its fair Aug. 26.

I’m looking at all the events of the various fairs, but once again I am disappointed that no event seems to fit me. Nor do I fit any event.

There’s a long history of county fairs in the valley. They were once popular ways to meet and visit neighbors at the county seat. Now with modern transportation, they are just a break from farm chores.

In the 1945 movie “State Fair,” there was something for everyone. The father in the story, after some mishaps, won a ribbon for his hog. The mother won a prize for her mince meat. The son had a brief fling with a carnival singer, every teenager’s dream, before returning to his steady girlfriend. And the daughter won a husband the last night of the fair. All I bring home is a dirty face and an upset stomach from eating too much cotton candy.

I once took my granddaughter to the Shenandoah County Fair and she wrote a nice thank you note afterward for taking her to a “theme park.” I’m a little old, at age 80, for a carnival ride. So once again I’m searching the fair schedules to find something to fit me.

Of course, everybody is looking forward to the new thing, betting on harness racing in Woodstock, unique in the state. And I note in the Warren County Fair there was a pet show. That might have been something to see but I couldn’t participate. My cat doesn’t know any tricks.

Most of the music groups have passed me and I don’t want to catch up. Wednesday the Warren fair had the music group Cold Gin, which is a KISS tribute band. But as KISS was far out for me, I don’t have any interest in paying tribute.

The beard/mustache competition Thursday, also at Warren, might have been interesting, but I am suspicious of those contests. If they won’t let you tug on the beards, how do we know the contest isn’t rigged?

I like the food exhibits and the stock shows. But they seem a little dull if you don’t know the contestants. And I am certainly not going to enter my cows and compete with the 4-H boys and girls. They’re unbeatable.

At 6:30 p.m. today, the Warren County Fair is holding a greased pig contest. That is one event I have always wanted to enter. As I studied the various fairs in the valley, I thought that maybe this year I could finally participate. As I understand it, there is no training or preparation required. You depend entirely on your smarts, agility and luck.

I checked the upcoming Shenandoah County Fair, and studied the application for the pig contest. The rules are simple. You must bring a container for a 45-pound pig. Check. You have to take him home that night. Check. And you bring a change of clothes and sign a waiver. Check.

Then comes the catch. There are three contests, for contestants ages 3 through 8. But there are no other contests, and none (I looked closely) for seniors 80 and above. I’m not accusing, but has age prejudice reared its ugly head? They are breaking the contestants into age groups. Fine and dandy. It is only right for contestants to compete with their own age group. But why cut it off at age 8?

Why not a contest for people 80 or older? Golf clubs have them. Why destroy the dreams of people in their sunset years? And why not women? Is this another glass ceiling?

Can’t I take greased pig catching off my bucket list? Couldn’t the county fairs add a category for 80 and above if a number volunteered? If you want to volunteer, phone or email me your name, I will forward it. The Shenandoah fair ends Sept. 3, so hurry. And by the way, Friday, Sept. 2, is the bull riding contest. Any octogenarians game?

Bonner Day has lived in the valley for 14 years. He uses his cat to practice catching greased pigs. Email: bonner5@shentel.net.


Correction: This story has been updated. The Rockingham County Fair begins Aug. 15.