Six Reasons to Visit a Country Fair with the Family

Last weekend our family packed a picnic and escaped to the country for our annual visit to a fall fair. We go every year as a family for many reasons – corn dogs, arcades and cotton candy not among them – rather we use the fair as an opportunity to further our family food culture.

Since we know that the connection between source and food is integral to encouraging good eating habits, we make an effort to visit local farms, but a trip to the local country fair is another way to make that link between field and fork.

The fall fair is so much more than fair rides and chicken-fried bacon; in fact, we find that when the line-ups to the arcades and canteens stretch for yards, the barns are always cool, quiet and spacious. Perfect for resting on a bale of hay and watching the milking process on some of the prettiest cows you’ve ever seen.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for our outing and I kept the camera handy to capture the day’s events. Today’s post is going to be a little different, almost like a photo essay showing highlights from our day. I hope these six reasons inspire you to seek out a country fair in your area!

Note: My apologies in advance for the photos. Trying to capture children and animals together is quite a challenge!

Real, Live Farm Animals

Two piglets at a farm fair

Fall Fair Pony

If a pastoral landscape dotted with livestock is not the view on your daily commute (and if it is, lucky you!) then you probably will appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with live animals at the country fair. We had fun spotting Wilbur, Black Beauty, Ping, The Runaway Bunny and many more of our favorite storybook characters in real life.

Noah and I walked slowly, hand in hand, through the stables, kicking up straw and reading the names of each horse as posted above their stalls. We admired cows of all sizes, buried our hands deep in a sheep’s woolly back, and fed handfuls of pellets to eager goats.

A good portion of time was spent in the poultry barn, where we took time to identify wild turkeys, roosters, doves, Muscovy ducks and chickens of all breeds. We laughed watching two ornery roosters conduct a spat through the bars of the cages and sighed over the ever-so-soft rabbits.

It was Animal Science 101, it was ‘Farmer Boy’, and it was the best afternoon ever.

Agricultural Displays

Fall fair giant pumpkins

fall fair vegetables

The pumpkin display gave us something to aspire to for our next gardening season, as did all of the gorgeous produce showcased. I loved seeing all the varieties of local vegetables, while the boys checked out art and craft projects submitted by children.

Truck Stop

Where else except the fall fair is your toddler going to pose with a larger-than-life John Deere?  This is one event where toys really do come to life for boys of all ages. We spent the good part of an hour walking through (and climbing on) rows of shiny new farm equipment.

baby on tractor

Picnic Play

Let’s talk about one of the not-so-great aspects of the country fair – the tendency toward complete and utter junk food. The local canteens offer fried onions, burgers, corn dogs and hotdogs and from there it’s a slippery slope. Cotton candy, deep-fried Mars bars, and caramel corn are just a few of the temptations for children – and let’s face it – pregnant ladies!

Here’s our rule of thumb, which works out for both our health and our budget (fair food isn’t cheap, people): we pack a complete picnic and purchase one ‘side’ from the fairgrounds. Usually french fries (easy to share) or poutine – a Quebec specialty, and if it is really warm, ice cream.

The rest of the day’s grazing is from our own snack bag, dried fruit, cookies, vegetable sticks, and crisp apples purchased at a roadside stand along the way. Just an observation: a bag of whole peanuts goes a long way when waiting for a horse show to start!

Petting Zoo

We found that no one minded if we petted any of the animals in the stables, but there was a petting zoo specifically for holding little furry creatures close. So we did that too.

My boys did ask for a bunny to bring home after holding three different ones each, but truth be told, I was starting to entertain thoughts of a little rabbitry on our property myself. They were just so cute!


We usually hit the rides early in the day, before it gets hot and while the line-ups are still reasonable. Our children are fresh and ready for some action after being cooped up in the car for the drive there. They aren’t tall enough for most of the rides, so they do a couple each and then we leave the Midway and head for the stables.

Yesterday, it was just too much excitement for Mateo, who passed out on Danny’s shoulder late in the afternoon. It’s so rare that he does this now, that Danny snuggled him close for nearly an hour.

A perfect ending to the day.

Do you have memories of visiting a fall fair as a child? Are you taking time to create these memories now?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. We LOVE fair season here in Maine. We have quite a few to choose from as well. My favorite is the Common Ground Fair in Unity, ME. An agricultural fair with all Maine produced products/food. Not that the food is necessarily healthier, but it is nice to at least know where it came from 🙂 My favorite part of fair season is taking a picture of my babes next to the giant pumpkin display every year. It is fun (or maybe not) to see how much they change in a year compared to that giant pumpkin 🙂

  2. Hey! I know that place 😉 We were there on the 3rd, and took many of the same photographs (minus the fuzzy rabbits, we *would* have come home with one!)

    It’s amazing how much there is for little people to learn about there & how much they actually do take away and can apply to their every day life; especially for us as we live in the middle of rural farm-ish area. There’s always a renewed interest in our food source and all that goes along with it. Extremely helpful to a homeschooling mom, the fair is educational fodder for at least a weeks worth of lessons/projects/dialogue.

    So lovely to see an excursion we’ve been taking with our son since he was a year old through the eyes of another family that shares much of our philosophy!

    • Oh what fun Rachel! We were there Saturday and the weather was perfect. I can imagine how the fair is great inspiration for the homeschooling mom. My 5yo came away with some ideas for Lego building and art work. 🙂

  3. We did. It was always fun and I want to take my future children. I was actually going to attend the one here (just on my own), but ended up missing it due to all of the flooding. Next year, hopefully!

  4. This is a great post! We are actually going with our daughter’s family (including 6 grandkids!) to the country fair this weekend!

  5. Love this Aimee! Such fun family times at the fair. Love your photos 🙂

  6. Megan Swicegood says

    This looks like such a perfect day! Going to the fair with my parents is one of my favorite childhood memories. I think it’s so important for kids too. I grew up in a rural farming area so I was well versed in animals and crops, but when I went to college in Los Angeles I met more than a few people who had never actually seen a cow in person. I was shocked. So I took them home to my county fair and had a great experience as a young adult watching other young adults look at all the animals and crops with the same wonder as a small child.

  7. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    Oh that Mateo – I just want to snuggle him! I don’t blame Danny one little bit for soaking up those cuddles as long as he could. I love this post, Aimee. I wish James and I could have been there with you guys, it looks like so much fun.

  8. We adore the fair. It helps that it’s walking/biking distance from our house, but we’d visit even if it wasn’t. There is always so much to do and learn at the fair, and my kids look forward to it every year. Love your photos, Aimee!

  9. Funny, I’d never even thought of taking our daughter to see the animals at the fair. We’ll definitely have to go next April when our county fair happens!

    And, Mateo sleeping on your husband is adorable! Our daughter is 16 months, and my husband already mourns the fact that she never sleeps on him anymore.

  10. We love the fairs and fall festivals. Waiting for some to occur her in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    And I love the photo of the big tractor where the guy is holding the kid on the wheel and trying to stay out of the photo!

  11. I love the fair, and I’m sad that we didn’t get a chance to go this year. The agriculture building is my favorite to visit, with all of the vegetables on display, the contests, and the place where you can get a big baked potato. Looks like you all had a ton of fun!

  12. We’ve been going to agricultural fairs for a long time – I grew up going to a 6 state one! Now as a 4-H club leader (ag/science/etc. national club network for those not in the US), it’s exciting to see all the club members prepping for the fair and see how proud they are to show off a year’s worth of work. It’s also fun to see the club members from different types of club connect with one another and ask about each other’s projects.

    Carmel apples, bison burgers, freshly made lemonade and Indian pudding are all some of my locally-sourced fair food favorites. Two weekends to go!

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