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A fair to remember


Funnel cakes, livestock shows, attracts all ages

By Matt McMullan




Late afternoon, Monday: The temperature, by conservative estimates, is in the high 90s, and when humidity is factored in, it feels like much more. \nIn the show arena on the Monroe County Fairgrounds, the swine breeding show is about to begin. The crowd is starting to fill out the grandstands, giving them shape. Local politicians walk up and down aisles, handing out fans with their names and faces on them, taking advantage of the oppressive heat to get the word out for the upcoming elections.\nAnd while the heat may now be finally letting up, the Monroe County Fair is showing no signs of slowing down.\nBeginning last Saturday and continuing on through this Saturday, community residents are gathering on Airport Road west of Bloomington to carry on an annual American tradition: the county fair.\nJust outside the arena, vendors stay behind fans and in the shade to beat the heat.\n"This a world-class fair," said Judson Holmes, proprietor and operator of Holmes Catfish stand at the event. "I've been to a lot of fairs, and it's one of the best fairs in Indiana. It's Cadillac. It's the Cadillac of county fairs."\nSo what does Holmes think of the weather?\n"These days have been extremely tough. Heat with humidity, it's tough," he says. "But these crowds will be astronomical. Tonight the midway will be full of people."\nAnd he's right. As the sun begins to set into the horizon, people do begin to arrive. It could be any number of things that draws in the throngs of fairgoers: the smell of carnival fare food like elephant ears and funnel cakes -- which are actually two distinct specialties -- or, even more enticing, the bright glow of the midway, with screeching, rumbling and hair raising temptations like "the Fireball," "Pharaoh's Fury" and "the Wipeout." Whatever it is, they come in droves.\nThe carnival midway, of course, isn't the only draw. A bevy of attractions are held away from the blinking lights and carnival barkers. On Thursday evening, for instance, the Bloomington Brass Band will be performing; Friday afternoon there will be a dog agility show, and Saturday night will see the mother of all demolition derbies held in the grounds' Grandstand Arena.\nBut of course, no fair would be complete without the livestock shows. The kids who raise these animals and bring them to show work hard to prepare for the fair and as a result, their knowledge of their animals continues to expand.\nSarah Foley counts the different classes on her fingers as she stands in the rabbit and poultry barn, surrounded by crowing roosters and gobbling turkeys.\n"There's water fowl, large fowl, turkeys, bantams, meat producing and egg producing," said the 11-year-old, an entrant in the poultry open show and the daughter of Assistant Professor John Foley in the IU School of Medicine. \n"We have some pretty good birds," Sarah Foley said.\nThis is the fourth year she's participated, and she's decided to move up from the 4H judging into the open class poultry judging, where anyone with a bird they are interested in showing may do so. \n"Since I've gotten grand champions before, this year I'm not going to compete in the 4H show. I'm going to give people like Levi a chance," Sarah Foley said, motioning to fellow competitor Levi Elgar, 10. Earlier in the day, he roped in two grand champion awards and a first place with a stellar pair of black Ameraucanas.\nLivestock judging will continue through Friday, and those interested would be well advised to go down and take a peek. The fair officially opens at noon, and admission includes access to carnival rides and auditorium and grandstand seating. \n"It's an excuse to bump into old friends and catch up," said fairgoer April Day. "And besides, it's fun for the kids"

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