As of last Tuesday, I can die happy.

At least, that’s what everyone says now that I’ve witnessed the Legendary Jacktown Fair, which wrapped up its 154th year last week.

After covering the parade and announcement of the 2019 Jacktown Fair Queen for the Messenger, I took advantage of the perfect opportunity to try funnel cake for the first time. As deliciously sweet as it was, I know if I eat enough of it I might actually kick the bucket sooner than I want. So I think once a year is all the deep-fried dough topped with powdered sugar I need.

The Jacktown Fair is now an annual tradition I don’t want to live without.

What makes it unique from other fairs is that, amidst a carnival’s usual excitement and noise, there’s a breathtaking view.

It was surreal standing atop the hills of Wind Ridge, looking out over the trees while the carnival rides zoomed in the background. The quiet of the forest juxtaposed with the flashing lights and rickety rides gave me a sense of meditative peace coupled with childish excitement.

I’m still new to rural America’s county fair season, but even I can recognize how special Jacktown is.

There I stood, under the weight of summer humidity, watching teenagers move through rows of game stalls, trying to win stuffed animals for their sweethearts. I stood smiling at the fearless kids jumping on and off sketchy roller coasters and savored the aromas of deep-fried sugar and cheese-covered fat.

I was there for work and had to leave sooner than I wanted to in order to meet my deadline, but I am grateful for a job that takes me to experiences I would’ve never had without it.

That was my first Jacktown Fair, but this year is my second time covering fair season for the Greene County Messenger. So I know that Jacktown was just the beginning. Next comes Rain Day and the Greene County Fair.

It’s wonderful feeling closer to the community, knowing what traditions await us in the coming months, like the precious demolition derby nights. I’ve already tucked my county fair schedule in my camera bag and am eager to photograph the different rides and vendors as I did last year.

I’m looking forward to the shock and confusion I’ll feel for some of the fair food. Deep-fried Kool-Aid took the cake last year, but I’m curious what the vendors will be selling at this year’s county fair.

And as with last year, I am impressed by how much emphasis rural communities continue to put on fair season. This time is about celebrating and teaching others about agriculture, the backbone of the state.

I may have been raised somewhere else, but I still see the pride 4-H children have in their animals. I still feel the passion Home and Garden clubs put in their displays. I still stand among you, camera and notepad in hand, watching wave after wave of farming families enjoying the different offerings of the fair, which celebrates who they are and the livelihoods they continue generation after generation.

Learning more about fair season and other aspects of living in Southwestern Pennsylvania has been such a privilege for me.

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