The Simplicity of a County Fair

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Melissa DeCastro

The Salem County Fair stands apart in its simplicity. It is quiet and it is full of local learning moments and seeing faces that become familiar. It is summer food of barbecue and fried funnel cakes some topped with bacon rather than sugar, that are worth the extra moments in line and the quick bites, so as to not miss the next event. The fair is a wonderful family outing. It is an easy ride from city to country, and feels a world away. It is close to Wilmington, Philadelphia and New York and just a quick drive from most points in the southern part of a New Jersey. It epitomizes the true feeling of county. The roaming rides and flashing lights of other fairs are not present. Instead, this fair more than others’ mission is to showcase the natural beauty of the traditions, the landscape and its people that make this county unlike any other in New Jersey.

The fair has many unique events that more than make up for any loud shows and amusements. There are skillet tosses, ice-cream contests, and pig races run on fresh wood that curls in soft piles and smells of the tree it came from.The 4-H and other organizations are front stage and center, and one does not lose sight of where the food that surrounds us that we enjoy originates. Each garden vegetable is displayed beautifully and set apart to admire, and each photograph of the country around us displayed and ribbons adorned with the respect of the judges.

The animals are prized and taken care of as if part of an extended family. Names of all animals entered are prominently displayed so that passerby's might offer a treat to a tiny goat almost hidden in corners of hay, or a cow whose head bows lightly when people are near to admire. It is a county fair full of nights of whole families gathered to meet. There are tractor pulls at night, and corn cobs to be ground and fed into small play areas for children to play as if in a sandbox. Balloons are given out freely by local merchants to amuse the small children and horse rides given with no agenda to be seen or met, except to be reminded of a slower pace.

It is a county fair of dirt roads, and parking on green grass. It is where most of the cars in the lots are large and functional, and cowboy hats if not already worn, are available to be bought. It is a place where ice cream is served generously and donations warmly accepted at any amount. Politicians are there to meet and listen to concerns an ideas, and princesses are crowned to reign. It is an event where hands are held over hearts for our national anthem and the flag is saluted with utmost respect. This is a beautiful part of America. It is a view into the past and how in many parts the everyday still runs in this section of the state. This part of New Jersey is worth a visit and all welcomed to see the uniqueness and traditions of Salem County’s annual fair.

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