County Fairs in America

More American than Apple Pie?

      We are rapidly approaching “County Fair Season”. Okay, so there is actually no officially recognized season for county fairs but usually, you can count on them from about mid-July to early October. They are very high on my list of favorite things to do. Fair food is like no other although, in all honesty, I have never tried a deep fried twinkie and sour pickle sandwich with tuna fish dipping sauce. Typhoon Orbitor 240x159I am however addicted to those giant smoked turkey legs, Australian deep fried potatoes, funnel cakes with strawberries and whipped cream, and those 18 inch grilled sausages smothered in fried onions and peppers followed by an invigorating ride on the Typhoon Orbiter !!

      If you have never been to a county fair you are missing out on Americana at it’s best. Word seems to get around about the newest crazy deep-fried inventions each year and they are at most fairs. What is unique about each individual fair is the local touch that Draft Horse 3_optshowcases the different folks and life across America. One of the best county fairs I have ever been to is the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Maine. I have never seen such enormous draft horses. I am 6’5” and these workhorses towered over me. The combination of power, strength, agility, and grace these beasts have is stunning. They are not something you would normally see at the Orange County Fair in Southernpig race_opt

California, although the piglet races at OC Fair are hilarious. This little piglet must have trained at Churchill Downs because he knew to go wide on the final turn and snatch victory from certain defeat.

      County fairs showcase the talent of locals from little kids to seniors in all hobbies and skills as cooking, painting photography, antique collecting, woodworking, table setting and whatever you can possibly imagine that can be done with your hands and your mind. One fair I attended had an exhibit of aquarium designing. It was for little kids and all the aquariums were the same 10-gallon size. I never knew that superheroes operated underwater. Whatever theme the kids could possibly imagine was turned into a functioning living aquarium with live fish. The talents that everyday humans have that you may never have imagined or thought of is all on display at county fairs. The fair is where we, the folks, get to showcase our love and passion for our respective hobbies in either competition or just to exhibit. County fairs show off the pride and the best in our communities.

     I am continuously impressed with the kids that are involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.  The skill and passion they exhibit for the many animals under their care will make you proud of our youth.

firemans muster    Some of the older fairs have unique competitions. The Fireman’s Muster at Fryeburg Fair is a competition worthy of your time when you understand that nearly 75% of firefighters in America are volunteers. The vast majority of small towns and rural communities rely on skilled volunteer firefighters.

      Many fairs lay claim to being the “oldest county fair” in the US. Quite a few of them will be celebrating their 200th anniversary this year so this is a great year to go County Fair hopping. Expect to see some incredible 200-year celebrations and events. Like my Grandma’s apple pie, and your Grandma’s apple pie…they are all spectacular!!

      A great RV trip for late this summer would be a tour of some of America’s oldest county fairs. Here is a partial list of some of them happening in 2017.

York County Fair                York, PA           252 years (1765-2017)       September 8-17 

Three County Fair    Northampton, MA           200 years                     September 1-4

Jefferson County Fair       Watertown, NY        200 years                              July 11-16

Knox County Fair                  Bicknell, IA            217 years                             July 17-22

Steuben County Fair              Bath, NY                198 years                       August 15-20

Fryeburg Fair                      Fryeburg, ME           166 years                         October 1-8

      The exciting news for us RV enthusiasts is that many of the fairs offer RV camping for the fair camping 275x183run of the fair.

      If you are on the road this late summer and early fall, treat yourself to one of America’s oldest and more enjoyable experiences, the good old County Fair. I promise you will not regret it… even if you dig into that deep fried twinkie and sour pickle sandwich with tuna fish dipping sauce.fryburg fair campground 285x177

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

RV Navigation by Culinary Road Map

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Knowing Where You Are by the Food You Eat

   If GPS, Rand McNally, Thomas Guide and Auto Club did not exist, you could definitely tell where you were in America by the regional food.

   Three of my passions, in no particular order, are Eating, Eating and Eating. If God has decreed that we must eat three times a day to survive, heck… you may as well enjoy it. I love food, not just any food… fresh, simple and original, well-prepared foods I cherish. I think it has been a couple of decades since I last went through a drive-thru. I love shopping the local seafood markets, butchers and farmers markets. Creating and eating good food is an event in itself. I have a certain aversion to recipes because if bound to a recipe, cooking becomes a chore rather than a delightful activity. The freedom and fun actually come from the creative process of trying new ingredients and preparing seafood, poultry, beef or pork differently each time. Of course, some very basic cooking knowledge is helpful.

Big Bears opt 300x484   I credit my “little” brother for much of my passion for food and skill for cooking. “Little” is a reference to his being 4 years my junior despite at 6”9” tall, being 4 inches taller than me. Our parents were divorced when I was just 6 years old. Our nanny’s entire recipe box comprised only two items.  Hamburger Helper and Tuna Helper. By the time he was 8 years old, little brother had had enough “Helper” dishes and began to cook himself. I will never forget his very first creation. It was glorious. He had built an Italian-style calamari dish with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, and calamari. The rest is history as they say and he went on to graduate from Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Rhode Island, ran a number of upscale restaurants from Florida to New Hampshire and ultimately his own family restaurant in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Fifty years later, he is my best friend and the source of much of my skills, understanding, and inspiration for the beautiful art of culinary magic and passion for food.

   Enough of the appetizer portion of this article lets get to the main course.

  If that big ole steamed lobster, drawn butter and whole belly deep fried clams platter forces you to close your eyes andlobster 2 tilt your head to the heavens in pure ecstasy, you must be along the coast of Maine or Massachusetts. Chances are, that rosy red bug was plucked from the frigid New England shoreline just hours ago. You will rarely find fresh whole belly deep fried clams anywhere else but summertime in New England.

New England Whole Belly Fried Clams
New England Whole Belly Fried Clams

If that doesn’t suit your fancy, I recommend the rich and tasty lobster rolls that are without peer anywhere in America… and wash it all down with a bowl of savory clam chowder.

The very best chowders, in my humble opinion, are the chowders with a clear broth or a very light creamy consistency.

   No food travel article would be worth its salt without mention of one of America’s iconic and distinctive foods. New Orleans Cajun cookin!!!! Beignets, alligator, andouille sausage, jambalaya, gumbo… what the heck??? I never knew you could eat alligator until I did in The Big Easy! Incredible!  Gumbo… talk about a dish with geographical roots and evolution.

   There are a few key ingredients to make true gumbo. However, over time and the influence of many different cultures in the south, a wide variety of gumbos abound and just about every one of them is fantastic. A Beignet is just a puff pastry with powdered sugar you eat for breakfast or dessert right? Don’t you dare tell that to the chef who whipped up the shrimp and eggplant beignet that was like a slice of heaven as it tingles every taste bud in your mouth. New Orleans baby… I love it!!

   The BBQ wars rage on with no end in sight. Everyone has their favorite. But let me tell you, they are ALL excellent. That is what is awesome about RV travel. You can be eating Memphis pulled pork with a tangy, juicy tomato sauce one day, and a few days later be eating pulled pork in South Carolina with a mustard, brown sugar and vinegar BBQ sauce.

     If it’s a hankering for beef that pushes your buttons, Kansas City and Texas are the places to be. Kansas City has a major meat packing history so it logically follows that BBQ would be huge. (That’s my crazy logic, you want good seafood… go to the ocean, you want beef, go where the cattle are). Although there is obviously all kinds of BBQ there, Kansas City is big on the thick molasses and tomato based sauces. Texas is the beef capital. They aren’t too big on sauces in some parts and let the barbecuing of the meat speak for itself. We will let you explore the nuances of the regions and styles of Texas BBQ on your own because it has a very rich history.

   Finally, salmon, salmon, salmon. The Pacific Northwest is the place to be. A staple of the Northwest for centuries, salmon is king. (no pun intended) Although you can have it prepared any way imaginable, I can’t get enough of the smoked salmon in these parts. They have smoked this fish for centuries and you will not find any better.

  Don’t be wooed by fancy neon lights and signs. Usually, the best food is where the locals hang out in relatively modest looking establishments. My heart lies with the Mom and Pop spots that have over the years stuck with the family tradition of quality, homemade food, good service and an honest, genuine appreciation for your choice to visit them.

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.