Sunday, September 2, 2007

Social Issues at the State Fair

The end of summer and the start of fall is usually commences with state and county fairs nationwide. Bill Giest did a spot on the Iowa State Fair (supposedly the nation's largest) and my finance and I visited the Maryland State Fair just last weekend. It got me thinking about this American tradition in light of my designing for social issues class, and I realized that there are more to fairs than games and rides.
First of all, it seems a little surprising that the state fairs are surviving the digital age, pretty much unchanged. Sure, they come up with a new food to deep fry every year, and I'm sure technology plays its part (organization, ticket sales, ride safety, perhaps) the state fair looks the same today as it did 50 years ago (a point made by Bill Giest). People grow vegetables, raise cows and pigs and make quilts. The technology behind these things has changed but the products haven't.
Agriculture is at the heart of any state or county fair, and agriculture if rife with social issues: sustainable farming, producing food free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and raising meat without hormones. The plight of the American small farmer (yes they do still exist) against the gigantic corporation who produces large quantities of tasteless food, and puts fish genes in the tomatoes.
A big part of my county's annual fair is the Demolition Derbys. Cars and gas, big social issues. Yes, the cars get smashed to bits, and spew smoke and exhaust for the crowd to breath in, but what was going to happen to these cars anyway? They were going to wind up in a dump sooner or later anyway. It is a waste? Is it recycling? Down-cycling? Does it create more waste, since most of the interior of the car is torn out and steel supports are welded in?
Think of the waste generated by a fair. Where ever there are people, there is waste.
All in all, I'm glad the fairs exist. I'm glad to see people that grow food for the rest of us and that kids still raise rabbits and goat for 4H projects. I'm glad to see that people invent there own recipes and make their own preserves. I'm glad to see that people who didn't go to art school still make things with their hands, even though most of what they make, they didn't design. I feel like fairs are made possible by small town Americans for other small town Americans and in a world of increasing globalization, big companies and technology, I'm glad that small town America still persists.
Word of the Day: Americana

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