It’s late July, and as has occurred for generations, Riley Countians will again make their way to the Riley County Fairgrounds. They’ll sample homemade goodies, marvel at well-cared-for beasts, enjoy the carnival and savor time with friends.
That and a whole lot more make up the Riley County Fair which, despite a host of other activities clamoring for our attention, manages to draw us back year after year.
Could be that the fair is well designed and well managed, mixing in traditional offerings while adding new attractions. The Kaw Valley Rodeo, for instance, never gets old. Performances will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, honoring the military Thursday night and dedicating Friday’s “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” event to cancer research and to special needs children.
The carnival, again provided by Ottaway Amusements, is another traditional anchor of the fair. And no wonder. With a variety of illuminated rides and games for people of all ages, it adds a festive touch to the fair.
And then there are the exhibits, as varied as the individuals who present them. Judging began Saturday with the dog agility competition, and it will continue with countless 4-H and open entries through Saturday.
If you want to learn how some of this county’s young people have been keeping busy, stroll through Pottorf Hall. There you’ll be impressed by the photography, the woodworking, the entomology, the clothing and countless other exhibits too numerous to mention.
Outside, you’ll also be impressed by the animal exhibits. Some, like rabbits and fowl, are on the small side. Others, such as swine and cattle, take up considerably more space and often dwarf the 4-Hers responsible for them. All are fascinating.
To their credit, fair organizers in recent years have added events, sometimes in response to national trends and other times at the suggestion of fairgoers. Among these are the Riley County Idol and the Decorated Rain Barrel contests. The Riley County Master Gardeners are sponsoring the rain barrel contest from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to encourage water preservation. The eighth annual Riley County Idol Contest is the work of the Manhattan Music Coali-tion. Register online at www.rileycountyfair.com.
There’s more, of course. At the fair, there always seems to be more, whether it involves pedal tractor pulls, horticulture judging or — at 1 p.m. Sunday at Pottorf Hall — the Apple Pie Contest.
Take in the fair. Yes, you can spend money — and it’ll be well spent. But you can also have a great time without dropping a dime.