The Utah State Fair: Perspectives on a United Community Tradition

The state fair is an annual event that brings our community together with the rest of the state – rural and urban folk alike. This year’s State Fair had something for everyone with the many exhibits,events and fun that brought out kids of all ages.

  IMG_9473 IMG_9514  Little Hands on the Farm, The Fishing Pond, 4-H Exhibits, an old-fashioned, under-the-big-top circus, comedians (who were also entertaining hip-hop dancers), cooking demonstrations, art exhibits, photography exhibits, creative arts exhibits (including some clever sculptures made from soda pop cans), demolition derby, carnival rides and a wide variety of food options.

The Fair means different things to many people in the Fairpark community. Perspectives from two Fairpark residents are offered here.

“Does no one else see the Fairgrounds as I see them? Beautiful in their humble but strong malleability.  I love the flexibility of these spaces and their untethered usefulness,” says Ann Pineda, Fairpark resident and artist. “At the Fairgrounds, hundreds of skills are showcased each year.  The work I showcase , only one of those skill-sets, has become a request for these beautiful spaces to be appreciated and in a way that is consistent with the history of this place.”

“I’ve discovered that fair food is a big draw for me,” states Brook Bernier, community resident.  “I have visions of Navajo Bread with melted butter and powdered sugar for weeks coming up to the opening day.  Something about Fair food – it just brings back so many good memories. I know exactly where the Navajo Bread pop-up is located at the Fair. I go there first, then I walk about 30 feet and get a super sweet corn cob, and turn around, walk over to Leatherby’s and get a big ice cream cone. I was short on time this year, so I made sure to fit in all my food priorities first. I rode my bike to the fair, which is also pretty awesome, so there was less guilt associated with eating all of that high-calorie food in a matter of minutes.”

Ann Pineda, continued:

The Gazebo2For a number of years, I have been coming to draw and paint in the open spaces of the Fairpark. The different qualities of light playing off its surfaces and spaces wind up in the paintings. The Fairpark glows each evening under its peach-colored lights. In mornings, the light is soft, of course, as it is in late afternoons; but more usually, I have been working in the bright sheen of mid-day, trying to figure out what it is I’m seeing. It’s a bigger subject than I could paint in several lifetimes. I like that. I like trying to do more than I know I can presently do or even understand.  (Oh, I believe I’m talking about “Reach.”)

At the Fairgrounds, hundreds of skills are showcased each year. The work I’m showing here, only one of those skill-sets, has become a request for these beautiful spaces to be appreciated and in a way that is consistent with the history of this place.   Because the Fairpark needs advocates.

The Fair exhibits a lot of work that doesn’t win a blue ribbon. (And it awards a lot of blue ribbons.) So why do all these people enter all this work for only second place or third, or…?   Because it’s a different kind of competition from that of winners and losers.  It’s about a great harvest of abilities and about encouraging the contributions that people want to be able to make. It’s an exhibition of reach.

For this event, it matters less that this person gave the best performance or made the best thing in that category. What matters is that people were extending their reach beyond what they could do before.

They not only worked and prepared over a length of time, they learned from the experience of making it public. A further reach.

In Utah, in Salt Lake City, we have a place for this. The Utah State Fairpark stands for something. It’s not just another piece of real estate. To Utahns, the Fairpark stands for this huge and steady encouragement for all who want to contribute something that they choose to offer. It stands ready to champion the good beginning effort as well as the masterly.   Because skill is not an accomplishment but a continuing and evolving project.

Brook Bernier, continued:

IMG_9430So one of the coolest things about living in Salt Lake, particularly the Fairpark neighborhood, is that we get to enjoy the excitement and activity that surrounds the Utah State Fair every September. People travel here from all over Utah to proudly display their art, crafts, home goods & livestock. With the advent of the new TRAX line on North Temple, coming to the State Fair can be quite a travel adventure for just about anyone. No need to worry about finding a parking space – you can relax and enjoy the views of our magnificent city on the way.IMG_9427

Some of my happiest memories growing up in New Hampshire include going to the state and county fairs with my friends. It was the best way to get away from our folks and practice some teenage independence. It really was tradition. Growing up American, celebrating our collective agricultural, food and crafting history….and having a ball on those nutty carnival rides.

It took me until the last Sunday to get over to the fair last month, but what I IMG_9594realized, is that even in the last hours, the fairgrounds were packed with all kinds of people – mostly with gigantic grins on their faces. Something about being at a fair – watching adults and children alike, going on rides, scaring themselves silly. The looks on their faces, terror and exuberant glee combined, as they funnel off the rides.IMG_9606

The Fair is a place where everyone can come and feel a sense of community with people from all over the state. It is our collective state community, coming together for 10 days each year. It’s built into the fabric of our part of Salt Lake City, the land designated by the state years and years ago, for the express purpose of bringing us all together every year for this great American tradition. I see this as a moment to embrace the future of our Fairpark, to bring it with us forward as we develop and grow our community. Change is in the air, as we are reminded each and every Autumn, the State Fair delivers a Great American tradition that should go with us into the future.