I’m going to admit it: I’m addicted to County Fairs. I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan where summers meant getting into trouble, swimming in the community pool and wandering aimlessly around the county fair. And whenever I travel and see the words “County Fair,” thoughts of elephant ears, corn dogs, sticky fingers and the smell of 4-H animals seems like sweet perfume calling out, “John, stop now!” A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit the Madison County Fair in Twin Bridges, Montana where I spent the afternoon visiting with local farmers and 4-H kids. What I’ve grown to love about the fair is touring the 4-H barns and talking to the kids about their animals, science projects and especially perusing the photography contest.
This young man was such a trooper; I could tell it was a bittersweet day for him as he explained with a little quiver in his voice how he raised his steer over the last year, feeding it several pounds of grain a day, and caring for it just to bring it to market at the county fair. You know he had been told not to get attached, but this young guy was brave enough to show he cared for his animal.
These two young girls were painting the legs of their sheep black and carefully brushing her out before they took her out to be judged. They had the sheep in this outfit because they had washed her earlier in the day and didn’t want her to get dirty.
If you’re willing to make an investment in time and truly have a curious nature about you, then fairs are an excellent photo opportunity for environmental portraits. These kids put a lot of time and energy raising their animals and learning about crop management, but most importantly these kids represent our future. Next time your county fair is going on grab the family, your camera, closed toe shoes and wet-wipes and get ready for one heck of an experience.
Make sure and enter John’s Black & White Photo Contest! Info here.