The Simple Life Still Lives At the County Fair

To stroll among the pigs and the psychic readers and a 25-foot-long python named Hercules at the Boulder County Fair in Longmont, Colo., on a spectacular evening as summer wanes is a signal and magical event.

That's because the county fair is a badly needed reminder of where most of us come from. After all, peer into the genealogy of our families and back there only two or three generations at the most are farmers and ranchers.

People of the land are at ease with adversity, because they deal with so much of it. They take nature's or man's best shot, dust themselves off, and get back to work. After all, there are crops to be planted and fences to be mended.

To meander the Boulder County Fair is to see plenty of folks still doing what they've always done, living out yonder from town.

Happily, 4-H remains very big. Wander through the animal pens at the fair and talk to the kids who have raised these magnificent-looking cows and sheep and goats and pigs, and you instantly remember your generational roots. A lot of these children will take over their folks' spreads if we, and they, are fortunate.

Everywhere, there are families. Indeed, it takes a family to raise a goat. It really does. Lots of hands. Lots of caring.

The kids parade their animals into the sales ring for auction. The auction is like any other. Buyers barely nod and the bid is taken. A cow that should have sold for $1,500 goes for $1,800 because two adults get into a hardheaded albeit good-natured bidding battle.

Not smart business, you figure? Right. But they do it for the youth. It's the youngsters who get the money, and so the idea is not to buy a sheep cheap but to help and richly encourage a child. That makes a lot more sense than a lot of things we do in this life.

Most of us, at core, are simple people who enjoy the simple pleasures most. For all of our highfalutin ways, many of us like most of all to put on our jeans and boots, go sit atop a fence, and watch a tractor pull at the Boulder County Fair. This is life at its zenith.

Just beyond where the pigs are already fast asleep for the evening, the Crystal Swing Band is playing music from the 1930s and '40s. Folks sit on hay bales to listen to the best of Glenn Miller (a University of Colorado student years before he left for World War II, in which he died) and Tommy Dorsey. Some in the crowd dance on the uneven dirt. When did we get so uppity we decided we needed to have a dance floor in order to dance?

Leader Kristin Anderson says the group will play "April in Paris," but for this night, the song will be called "August in Longmont." Sounds just as good to us.

A prominent sign outside one of many fine eateries along the midway said, "We use cholesterol-free peanut oil."

On down the gorgeous midway with all those classy neon lights, we can pick rubber ducks out of a bucket of water and win what we are promised is an excellent prize.

There is a sign: "If you do not understand the rules of this game, please ask the operator. If you still do not understand, do not play this game." Fair enough. The rules of this game seemed to be break a balloon with a dart.

We could ride rides that turn us upside down and shake us and a mechanical bull that is designed to put us in the dirt. We could shoot baskets and throw fastballs and try to break bottles. Absolutely everything good in life is at the Boulder County Fair.

The fair reminds us of what we want to be - nice people with good families leading decent lives in simple ways. We want to enjoy ourselves, not bother others and not be bothered by others.

The Boulder County Fair, home of splendiferous corn dogs, gloriously reminds us of what we aspire to. Or should.

* Douglas S. Looney is the Monitor's sports columnist.

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