Have you ever traveled to a state fair? If you haven’t, you are missing out! State fairs are one of the best ways to learn and observe what different areas of the country have to offer. It’s a fun way to experience the USA.
Last week I traveled to the Kentucky State Fair. It was a best of the bluegrass kind of day!
According to the Filson Historical Society, ” The Kentucky State Fair is one of the oldest fairs celebrated in the United States. Its beginning can be traced back to 1816 when Colonel Lewis Sanders of Fayette County, Kentucky (no known relation to Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) organized the first fair in the Commonwealth.”
In addition it states,” The fair became official in 1902 after being mandated by the Kentucky General Assembly the previous year. It was held at the famed Churchill Downs initially, then rotated throughout various communities until finding a permanent home in Louisville’s West End at the newly created Kentucky State Fairgrounds on September 14, 1908.”
There’s so much to do and to see at the fair. Not only can you find food, music and rides but you can also watch one of the premier horse shows in the country. The World’s Championship Horse Show is held in conjunction with the fair each year. There are approximately 2,000 of the best saddlebreds in the country that compete for one million dollars’ worth of prizes. You won’t believe how fancy the barns are decorated! People obviously work hard to customize the barns and make them appealing with fresh flowers, curtains and decorative items.
Who doesn’t love looking at various livestock that is brought to compete at the fair? The cows and the pigs were pretty laid back. They were content to relax and take a nap, or have a snack. The goats, however, were busy getting baths and getting groomed. It’s hard to be a goat supermodel, evidently. There was a lot of crying and noise making as they were being fluffed and puffed with blowdryers and hair brushes. It looked like something out of a Kardashian tv show filming!
And who knew that goats were so stylish! Check out the fancy coats. Of course, my favorite is the pink one.
Have you ever had a selfie with a mule? They were so cute and very friendly…..just hanging out in the tents greeting people. They liked being the center of the attention.
Farming is an important industry in Kentucky and other rural states. Tobacco, corn, hay, soybeans are all on display at the fair. Have you ever seen an 800 pound pumpkin? Well, look no further! Many of the 4-H clubs around the state submitted displays for the competition.
One of the coolest parts of the fair is a relatively new section. Kentucky bee keepers from around the state provide educational displays as well as actual working bee hives. It’s fascinating to learn what an important role bees play in the world, not to mention actually watching the bees in action. If you don’t have bees, then you don’t have flowers!
The Kentucky State Bee Keepers Association had a table that contained honey from all parts of the state. It was amazing to taste the different honey and how different they were from one another. The dark honey is usually from the fall and the lighter honey is from the spring. Soil conditions play a big part in the taste of the product. Think of a wine tasting, except with honey!
Country hams are always a big deal at the fair. In fact, every year there’s a country ham breakfast. There are always politicians in the mix, and Miss Kentucky auctions off the ham. The breakfast usually attracts around 1,600 people. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “the ham breakfast has netted more than $10 million for charity since 1964. The most expensive country ham on record (before the 2018 record) at the Kentucky State Fair went for a whopping $2 million in 2014”. This year’s country ham came in at 18.77 pounds and brought in $2.8 million at the auction. It was a record setting year!
I ran into the proud buyer of the ham at an event the day after he bought the ham. He told me that he was going to be serving the ham for a Christmas event for his bank’s board of directors. I’m sure that will be a nice meal!
This year Broadbent B & B Foods had the blue ribbon ham that was auctioned. The ham breakfast tradition was started in 1964. According to the Courier Journal, “the breakfast includes 450 pounds of country ham; 5,400 eggs; 130 gallons of orange juice; 1,600 half-pints of milk; 30 gallons of sorghum; and 20 gallons of honey.” That’s a lot of food!
From there we went over to the contest area. Anything that you can imagine is there to be judged. Whether its dolls, ugly lamps, shadow boxes, cakes, pies, quilts, decorative items…..the list goes on an on.
One of my fondest memories of growing up was entering my doll into the county and state fair. My doll was a Madame Alexander baby doll that my Nannie had given to me. My grandmother Bell was an expert in knitting, and would make my doll new dresses each year. They were beautiful and little works of art. I always entered them in the fair and I won several blue ribbons. It’s a great memory, so I was really excited to see the doll competition.
Cakes and pies have always been a crowd favorite. Did you read my post about Malone’s and their state fair award-winning apple crisp? There were so many desserts on display. The detail on the cake decorating entries was really intricate. Needless to say, they were too pretty to eat.
How can you forget the pies? They made me hungry just looking at them.
One of my favorite parts of the fair is the Kentucky Main Street area. Counties from all around the state have booths that highlight their area. Chamber of Commerce volunteers are happy to fill you in on what their county has to offer. Everybody was very nice and willing to talk with you and let you know what makes their place special. Whether it’s Marion County and their distilleries or Corbin and Colonel Sanders, there’s a lot to see and learn about our state and history. And who could forget Hodgenville and the Abraham Lincoln connection!
No state fair experience would be complete without sampling the various dining options. Funnel cakes, ice cream, pizza….. the list goes on. For years I have wanted to try the doughnut burger. I have to say that the wait was worth it. It was delicious! Not only was there a doughnut, but cheese and bacon, as well. Even the state troopers got into the action!
My trip to the fair was a great day. Being a travel blogger gives me the opportunity to see and participate in a lot of cool things. I noticed throughout the day that fair goers, employees, and volunteers at the fair all had smiles on their faces and it was a really nice experience. People were friendly and happy to be part of this great Kentucky tradition!