Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fredericksburg Fair 2008

After a year of blogging, we come right back around to where we started: the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair. The Fair this year was touted as being better than ever, so my husband and I visited on Saturday. Admittedly, we probably would have gone even if it had been advertised as lamer and more broken down than’s just become one of those traditions. I can’t really explain the appeal, since we don’t go on any of the rides, don’t play the midway games, and aren’t interested in tractor pulls. There’s just something about the carnival atmosphere that we can’t resist. The animals are a big draw for us, too, and since last year was a disappointment in that area, we had high hopes for the animal displays.

The fair has been spruced up a bit with some fresh coats of paint and quite a few new rides. But most importantly for us, the animals were back in force. In addition to the chickens and rabbits we’re used to seeing, there was a petting zoo with farm animals (ducks, geese, goats, sheep, pigs), as well as “exotic” animals—emu, wallaby, african tortoise, alpaca, camel, llama, zebu and Patagonian cavy, my favorite. Did you know the capybara is the largest rodent in the world (we’ve seen them at the zoo), and the Patagonian cavy (above) is the second largest? My husband and son are both rodent lovers, so our family has always paid attention to rodents of unusual size. My husband, who feels a kinship with the slowest, most lumbering animals, enjoyed the zebu (Asian cattle) and of course, the cows.

In a stroke of good luck, we happened to be at the rabbit barn while the rabbit judging was going on. It was really fascinating, and we watched for quite a while. The judge (certified by the American Rabbit Breeders Association) handled each rabbit so gently, stroking its fur, positioning it just right, cupping its bottom...okay, I admit it, I think I’m in love with Chris, the rabbit judge (right). And I realized that while you might not like the whole notion of sweet looking animals in small cages, breeders have to really treat their animals with great care if they want to win awards. I’d like to think that after a few days in small cages, all of those rabbits (and all the other fair animals, too) go home to live in roomy enclosures with good food, plenty of exercise, and lots of attention.

So we missed Miss Fredericksburg Fair on Friday night, but figured we’d take in one of the other pageants that was scheduled for Saturday. The Fair sponsors Tiny Miss Fredericksburg, Little Miss, Pre-Teen Miss, Junior Miss and Miss, but so far, we’d only seen Miss. Turns out that Tiny, Little, and Pre-Teen are very brief affairs, nothing like the hoopla that surrounds Miss. I was glad, really, for the sake of the little girls. We watched Pre-Teen Miss (ages 9-11), which was over in less than 20 minutes. Each girl came out in a casual outfit, introduced herself, walked around the stage, and then answered an easy question requiring not much more than a one-word answer, like what is your favorite thing to do at the Fair, or what is your favorite holiday (ride the rides, Christmas—no surprises there). I like that anyone can enter the Fair pageants by filling out a simple form and paying $25, no weeding out, no pre-selection committee, and the pre-teen pageant had girls who mostly seemed like this was probably their first pageant, done just for fun. The winner (being crowned above) was the most rehearsed, and probably wanted it the most, so cheers to her. I’ve come to the conclusion that pageants are a traditional part of small town American life, and aren’t harmful unless the parents or child get overly invested in the outcome. I’m not crazy about what they teach little girls about competing on the basis of physical appearance, but many will counter that pageants teach poise, improve communication skills, and bolster self-confidence. Nonetheless, I expect the popularity of pageants will eventually fizzle out entirely, and I certainly won’t mind when that happens.

The Fair isn’t cheap if you’re going for the rides: $7 per adult admission, plus more for the rides and attractions, with an unlimited ride ticket at $15. With food and extras, it isn’t exactly a cheap family outing, so be forewarned. The Fair runs through August 3.

This eggplant was the winning entry in the vegetable category of "unusual plant":

The blue ribbon quilt in the applique category (if you click on the photo, Mom, you can see a bigger version):

Sweet faced goat from the petting zoo:

Here's an animal you don't often see around these parts (well, except for the occasional live Nativity scene in December):

New this year were these barns with special attractions, the giant horse and the giant steer. Like fair freak shows of old, they were hidden behind curtains and only paying customers could get a look. We didn't bother:

The Ferris wheel was back this year. Here it's getting some maintenance prior to the first ride of the day:

One of the new kiddie rides this year, Dylan's Dozers:

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