Calvin Hayden
Johnson County Commissioner, 6th District
Is there any better slice of Americana than a county fair? It’s small children giggling with their parents on the merry-go-round. It’s teenagers trying to walk straight after getting out of the Tilt-a-Whirl.
It’s friendly competition in the bumper cars. It’s winning a stuffed animal for your girlfriend, child, or spouse at the ring toss.
It’s the smell of onions, sausage, hamburgers, hot dogs and corn dogs; and funnel cakes with pink cotton candy stuck to your fingers.
It’s the lights. The crowds.The sounds.It’s animals – lots of them. Cattle.Sheep.Horses.Pigs.Chickens and other poultry.
It’s your friends.
It’s your family.
It’s your fair.
And, the 2011 Johnson County Fair begins Tuesday, Aug. 9, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 13, at the fairgrounds near downtown Gardner. It’s five days of farming, 4-H, food, and family fun for all ages that has been around in Gardner for 71 years.
This year’s event is celebrating the sesquicentennial of Kansas with a theme of “Kick Up Your Heels: Celebrate Kansas’ 150th Birthday.”
Living up to its theme, the fair features a decorating contest involving 4-foot silhouettes of cowboy boots, a youth coloring contest of cowboy boots, and a “Kick Up Your Heels” dancing clinic to learn how to two-step, line dancing, and other country dances.
Let’s kick up our heels together.
There’s simply nothing like it. The Johnson County Fair is a joy to enjoy.
Our county fair features musical entertainment including the Bands in the Park concert at nearby Cornerstone Park (7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9). It offers exhibits showcasing local gardening crops and the many talents of local 4-H’ers, educational displays, community interests and consumer science, livestock showmanship competition, poster and cookie baking contests, rides for all ages, and plenty of “fair” food, but don’t forget the 4-H Food Auction (another option at 7 p.m. Tuesday).
Special events, which have a charge for admission, include a youth rodeo, amateur flat track races, and bull blast and barrel racing.
Family Fun Night (also Tuesday) tests youths in cow milking, pedal pulling, egg gathering, and other barnyard chores followed by the annual Night of Fun Challenge featuring mutton bustin’, calf scramble, and attempting to catch greased pigs.
The fair also invites youngsters (and adults) to Touch a Truck, a new event on Wednesday, Aug. 10,  when all ages can climb on, discover, touch, and explore their favorite things on wheels, including big and small trucks, emergency equipment such as fire trucks and an ambulance, and farm equipment.
This fair is as much fun as it is educational, giving all ages the opportunity to learn about localproduce and livestock.
We may live in a growing urban county, but it only makes sense that children learn where their foodreally comes from– not just off the shelves of our grocery stores.
The final day of the fair, as usual, kicks off with the annual Johnson County Fair Parade in downtown Gardner. It begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, and ends with a bang with the Demolition Derby that evening (there is an admission charge).
If you haven’t already made the trip to the annual county fair, why not take the family for an evening of clean fun right here in Johnson County?
It isn’t Disney World, but it doesn’t cost as much, you don’t have to travel as far and won’t leave “It’s a Small World” stuck in your head all night.
It isn’t the largest fair in the Kansas or the world, but you won’t have to walk five miles to take in all the fun.
And, please remember, it’s available at the right price: It’s free admission to the fairgrounds and most activities.
So, come to our local county fair and kick up your heels. You’ll be glad you did.