It’s just not fair…

…of me to keep you on “The Edge” of your seats. I know, especially when it’s taking me so long to get posts written these days. But I just have to share the awesomeness that is the Clackamas County Fair before it gets any further away from me. Although we technically have a few weeks of summer left, it’s pretty much done. I need one last gasp celebration of all that is the rural county fair before the summer is really and truly over.


If you’d like to see a lovely depiction of the fair, full of artfully-shot photos and adorable little-kid goodness, I encourage you to visit Alicia Paulsen’s post about her day at the fair. She is the writer of Posie Gets Cozy, a blog that makes me want to sit and sew and knit and cook good food and snuggle up in sweet, old-fashioned quilts.

But then come right back so you can see the view from our sometimes twisted lens.


Fruit/vegetable sculpture. Of…something?

There was, of course, the standard fair fare–rides, games, high-fat food.



There were also the things that make me wonder about some people. And sigh a lot.

redneck signs

demolition derby

I’d never been to a demolition derby. Destruction just for the fun of it isn’t really my kind of fun.

I didn’t get many photos of the standard fare because that’s not what really draws me to the fair. What gets me are the things that make my heart feel so tender about us humans and what we do with our brief time on this planet.

llama judging

cowboy boots

The llama judging may have been my favorite part of the day, watching kids decked out in their best jeans and their boots, so serious and earnest as they brought their animals forward to be inspected.

It brought back such vivid memories of Fern at the fair in Charlotte’s Web that I went home and read some of those passages aloud to Cane. (We roared at how her parents sent her and her brother off with 50 cents to last the whole day. Some things have certainly changed!)


There is so much creative energy and work on display at the fair, and something about seeing so much of it gathered in one place touches me like few other things do.

I love thinking about the origins of county fairs, how they were ways to celebrate the skills so essential to rural life.


This gorgeous coat was sewn by a 13-year-old. Wish I had such mad skills!

This gorgeous coat was sewn by a 13-year-old. Wish I had such mad skills!


Look at this amazing dress!


And this, which is amazing in a totally different way. A modern take on feed sack reuse. Love it.

What gets me even more than displays of useful, utilitarian skills are the ones that show how deep our need to create is, in ways that go beyond the purely practical.

The tiniest little succulents you ever did see.

The tiniest little succulents you ever did see.


Welcome to Sherwood Forest. Lego-style.


So many paintings, of such a wide range of subjects.

A Wizard of Oz-themed table setting.

The table-setting event is one of our favorites. This was a Wizard of Oz-themed one.


A sweet little flower arrangement.


An “I Spy” quilt. How I would have loved this for my kids when they were small.


A dress embellished with paint. Each button had a unique design.

And, finally, I also loved the displays of collections. It seems Marie Kondo has all kinds of us thinking about whether or not objects “spark joy” in us, but the creators of these displays have clearly been tuned into their sources of joy for some time:



I have a collection of teacups from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers much like this one.


"Barbie's Wide Variety of Shoes" was definitely our favorite collection!

“Barbie’s Wide Variety of Shoes” was definitely our favorite collection!

When I began my month-long August photo project (which I pretty much abandoned mid-way), I wondered about photography and how it impacts my relationship with experience. What I realized carrying my camera around the fair is this:  I like photography when I’m focused on exploring a topic or idea–but not so much when I’m trying to make good photos.

As I’m sure you can tell, I didn’t do much more than point and shoot while at the fair. I didn’t want to fuss much with framing my shots, and I wanted even less to fuss with camera settings. What I wanted to do was capture images to help me remember what I was loving about the fair, and I liked how capturing images was getting me to think about what I love and why I love it. It was OK because I was experiencing it with someone else who was taking photos for the same reasons; the photo-taking was integral to our experience, not something to capture it.

I guess this means I won’t ever be a great photographer, and photography isn’t really one of my creative outlets. But that’s OK. Sometimes I’ll still get lucky and take some great photos.


We stopped at a dahlia farm on our way to the fair. I kinda like this one.

I promise to finish the Edge story asap. We did go back to work this week, so it might be a few days before I get to it. 🙂


8 thoughts on “It’s just not fair…

  1. Marian says:

    Strangely enough, I have NEVER been to a fair of this kind. Seeing all that creativity (and industriousness!) would be something I would enjoy as well, but I’m right with you on the demolition derby (wasting gas and wrecking stuff “just because” is something I find extremely disheartening, especially now, given the state of things … ).

    (I like the double entendre in the title 🙂 ).
    Marian recently posted…I Was Not a Well-Read Child …My Profile

    • Rita says:

      I think the demolition derby gave me a migraine! There was a beautiful old car that they brought out and set up in the middle of the field. It was a car that belonged to one of the guys’ grandmothers. And then they brought out another car to run into it (repeatedly) and smash it up. I just don’t get it.

  2. Kate says:

    When I was little we went to the county fairs with my mom and she ALWAYS made us walk the animal barns with her before we went and played on the midway. At the time I would huff and puff about how much I hated it, but I really did love all those horses and pigs and rabbits. And I LOVED watching people show their horses because my mom LOVED horses and you couldn’t help but get sucked into her enthusiasm. Now I find that I LOVE looking at all the domestic arts – the sewing and needlepoint especially.

    Happy back to work!!
    Kate recently posted…Finished Object: Henslowe ShawlMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      The domestic arts are my favorite, too! I like looking at all the animals, but I’m more fascinated by the things people make. As the photos attest to.

  3. Sarah says:

    Oh, I love this! The earnestness of the teenagers (with the llamas and the teacup collection especially) is so charming. And I’m all over that recycled feedsack fashion — super clever!

    I think Alicia’s posts and photos are wonderful, but they are always so strongly filtered through her very specific sensibility and aesthetic — which are wonderful, to be sure. And yet I feel like your photos give me a bit more access to the sensibility/experiences of the fair-makers, if that makes any sense, rather than just one fair-goer. That’s really valuable too, and I’m glad to have both perspectives.

    I love your insights about photography and its function/role for you, too. It seems like what you’ve discovered is sort of the obverse of the ideas we were talking about earlier re: creativity and vocations and “how can I serve.” Here, instead of worrying about how you can be good/better/best at photography, you’re thinking “how can this activity serve me?” Yes! (I have a similar relationship to photography, I think, so it was great to hear it articulated so well.) And if it leads to stunning images like that bee-and-dahlia every once in a while, so much the better.

    Would you believe, I have never been to a/the fair?
    Sarah recently posted…Fasolakia: Greek green bean and tomato stewMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, you have to go to the fair! When I was a kid, the Puyallup fair was the one we all wanted to see. One year, my parents let me miss school for a day to attend it with my 3 best girlfriends. (I’m not sure why; missing school unless sick was never allowed.) It’s the only year I got to go, and I still remember it. A magical day in my memory.

      And thanks for your thoughts on photography. I hadn’t considered fair photos in quite this way you have–the idea of whose perspective is getting captured. I want to chew on that a bit…

    • Rita says:

      OK, the funnel cake was pretty good–but I still prefer an elephant ear! And yes to that blue coat! It was amazing. I wish I could have fully captured how beautiful it was. I would much rather have the coat (or an elephant ear) than a llama. They spit, you know. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.