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State Fairs Combine Nostalgia and Education


Autumn is the time of year when many Americans observe harvest season rituals that evoke the nation's rural past. One of those rites, the state fair, is celebrated in all 50 states, and serves to remind city-dwellers of a simpler time. Carnival attractions have been added over the years, but the backbone of these events remains their old-time country flavor.

Mechanized carnival attractions draw big crowds at the Maryland State Fair. But there is another side to this event. It is a scene that looks like it is right off the farm.

This is actually part of a barnyard display at the Maryland State Fair, a yearly event that helps America's largely urban-dwelling population reconnect with its agrarian roots.

"Fairs were originated hundreds of years ago in various forms and certainly the fair as we know it is about a hundred years old,” says Dr. Guy Hohenhaus, a veterinarian working at the fair. “It was a place for the agricultural community to get together and show off what they had done over the past year."

Dr. Hohenhaus is on duty at the fair's "Birth Center," a type of exhibit that has caught on at state fairs across the country in recent years. "It is something that has been going on nationally and at the state fairs and also at quite a few local fairs around the country and it's a way to bring people a little bit closer to the source of the food and the fiber products that we use every day and take for granted."

The hard facts of life on a farm are brought home at the birthing center, such as the case of this piglet, too small to feed itself. "They have it really tough. Not only are they the smallest when they are born, but a lot of times they lose out on the battle for a good teat at the udder," says the veterinarian. "And they'll stay with their mom three or four weeks before they are weaned."

"What we'll probably try to do with this one is maybe bottle feed it or bucket train it and see if we can help it out," adds an attendant at the birthing center.

Farmland scenes like this have become ever less common across the United State. But it seems they will always be preserved at America's state fairs.

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