Fall fairs have been a feature of North American life since early in the nineteenth century.
At the end of the harvest, people from rural areas have come together to celebrate.
Usually, these fairs take the form of a competition regarding the best of all farm products
of that year. Depending on the part of the country, and its most important crop, fall fairs
can begin as early as August or as late as November. They usually last several days.
When the United States and Canada were organized, they were divided into small units
called counties. Larger units were called states or provinces. Many of the best-known
fairs are county fairs or state fairs. There are also smaller local fairs, and larger ones too,
like the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario.
Since these fairs are usually annual events, many have developed permanent buildings
over the years. Most of these are large barn-like structures. These buildings are used to
display new products for farm life, such as tractors, home furnishings and water systems.
Several barns are usually necessary to house all the horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep,
chickens and other animals in competition. There must also be room to display all the
vegetables, berries and fruits in competition. Finally, there is space for handicrafts,
artwork, baked goods, and jams and jellies.
Usually, there is a grandstand, which is a stage with wooden seats around it. Here
entertainers perform for an audience during the fair. Country and western singers are
usually popular at fairs, but so are comedians, clowns, dancers and musicians. There
may also be other contests such as a beauty competition for queen of the fair, tests of
strength for the men or pie-eating events. Most fairs also have a racetrack, which is used
for horse racing, or, in some cases, auto-racing.
Fairs have helped to improve animal breeds, and races encourage the breeding of fast
horses. Ploughing contests test the strength and steadiness of horses, and so do pulling
contests. This spirit of competition has led to improvements in all areas of farming. Every
kind of grain, fruit, vegetable, berry and animal is tested, and only the best win a ribbon.
This encourages fairness to improve their products.
Farm women compete to produce the best homemade food and crafts. Many kinds of
fruit and vegetables are stored in glass jars for the winter. The best of these also receive
prizes. Most fairs have a dining area where this good food is served to the public.
The goal of improving farming is sponsored by the governments of Canada and the
U.S.A. Four-H Clubs are youth organizations that encourage farm children to take an
interest in farming. Four-H Clubs aim at improving the heads, hearts, hands and health of
their members. There are also women’s organizations, such as the Women’s Institutes in
Canada, which work to make the life of farm families better. Fall fairs have taken over the
idea of the midway from the circus. The midway has rides like Ferris wheels, merry-gorounds, and roller coasters. It also has games of chance and skill, such as trying to
throw a small hoop over a large bottle. One nice thing about fall fairs is that they are fun
for the whole family. Children enjoy the midway and the farm animals. Women like the
crafts, food and household exhibits. Men like the machinery, the horse races and the crop
exhibits. Everyone likes the grandstand shows. Nowadays, not so many people live on
farms. But people from towns and cities still enjoy going to fall fairs. They are part of our
North American heritage