I was comparing a trip to North Carolina with an English friend recently. She has a son attending Duke University and is a frequent visitor to the Tarheel State. We were both there during the UK October school break. And what did she describe as the highlight of her visit, besides seeing her son? Going to the North Carolina State Fair. The state fair is an annual exposition that has been running in Raleigh, North Carolina since 1853, with only a few time-outs for the Civil and Second World Wars
Wow, I exclaimed. We were there too. Didn’t you just love it! Such crazy food - deep fat fried ice cream. Weren’t the animals beautiful? I loved the goats, and the cows. Did you go to the pig race? And for the next 20 minutes, we recounted more highlights: the Demolition Derby, the Grand Champion turkey and the record-breaking pumpkins. We agreed. It was extraordinary. We loved it.
In listening to my English friend, I realized that the state fair had given her a real glimpse into ‘America Profonde’ – a view that few foreign visitors get to see. Without irony, she embraced the spirit that enjoys crashing cars, eating ridiculous food and racing pigs. But she also appreciated the young farmers who know a lot about farming and take excellent care of their animals, the bee keepers working hard to maintain healthy hives, the church groups serving up ham biscuits in support of good causes and the local dairies making cheeses the old fashioned way. In short, she found going to a state fair to be a great way to experience what makes America, well, America.
And I like the reaction of one of my daughter’s friends from Singapore when Eloise told her she was going to the North Carolina State Fair.
Oh my God, Eloise, you are just like Hannah Montana!