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Jul 28, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Powered by people, the old fairgrounds come to life again

Far more than animals, arts and crafts, and produce are on display this week at the Fremont County Fair.

There also is dedication, commitment, pride, imagination, community and tradition -- deep tradition -- there for all to experience.

It has been so for a hundred years now. Even most of the words that follow these are now a decade old, still ringing as true as if the bell had just been struck a moment ago.

If one seeks a dose of wholesome inspiration and encouragement -- and, Heaven knows, we all could use a bit of both -- the county fair is the place to look.

A little girl shyly leads an adult friend to the corner where her knitted vest hangs. A crowd of little boys surrounds a wooden ramp made for racing marbles. People crane their necks staring at the dozens of quilts floating above the armory floor.

A grandmother slips her grandson a buck for a piece of pie in the 4-H lunchroom, and his eyes go big and round as he contemplates a delicious dilemma: cherry, apple, blueberry, rhubarb, lemon meringue, banana cream... Grandma, could I have another dollar?

Sheep bleat their greetings to spectators filing past the pens, the lucky ones luxuriating in a newly cool world after being shorn of the wool blankets they wore the day before.

As for the pigs, they tend to be more oblivious, lying blissfully in their dirt. Brave visitors might dare flick a curly tail hoping for a snort in response.

A goose scolds a guy who gets too close to her cage. The giant rabbit blinks silently at the kids who gaze in wonder at its marvelous plushness.

Old men who showed a beef a lifetime ago squint to make out the names of this year's exhibitors, written in black marker on paper tags, nodding knowingly in recognition of the surnames that have defined their community for decades.

A boy and girl huddle together on the Ferris wheel, hoping it stops when they're at the very top. Chances are he'll ignore the admonition not to rock the seat, if only for a moment.

A dad holds the hand of the tiny tot, carrying a huge inflatable whatchamacallit in his other arm, evidence of an accurately tossed coin or pinpoint precision with a dart aimed at a balloon.

Men in blue jeans and cowboy boots lean against pickup trucks, one foot on the bumper, catching up. Twelve-year-olds wash down steers, eyes peeled for the speck of dirt that could make the difference between blue ribbon and red.

Families sidle up to the tables where ice cream and cinnamon rolls are being judged, hoping for a taste, rarely leaving disappointed.

Crowds stand in line, laughing and talking, ready to hustle for a good seat in the big grandstand to see the rodeo/concert/demo derby/hog wrestling. Some who don't have a ticket stand on tiptoe for a peek over the fence.

Harried but happy, the fair workers emerge from the office, blinking against the late-afternoon sun, grateful to stroll among the barns and show tables, saying hello, checking things out, mentally cataloging ideas for next year.

Fragrances of fried bread, pizza, greasy burgers, cotton candy and barnyard mingle exquisitely. The snuffles of horses, the moos of cattle, the cautioning calls of mothers, the murmuring voices from the exhibit halls, the giggles of children and the deep twang of the public address announcer arrange themselves in a summer symphony.

Powered by people, the old fairgrounds come to life again, a magnet for a one-of-a-kind town and country reunion. Surely nowhere are so many people, of so many ages, and so many walks and stations of life together at one time.

This is fair week, when time can seem to stand stone still. Maybe it even inches backward. At least we can hope. At the county fair, it seems downright possible.

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Fremont County Fair