The Crappy Family Goes to a County Fair

When we were in Wisconsin I really wanted to take the kids to a small county fair.

We’ve taken the kids to the Los Angeles County fair before, but it is huge. Over a million people attend each year. Our experience there is entirely different from what I remember growing up because there are approximately 990,000 too many people there. I want small. Small! I want to revisit my childhood!

I often have the desire to do things with my kids that I did as a child. Especially on vacations. I have such magical memories from going to xyz on vacation! I want them to go to xyz and have magical memories of it too! But sometimes my attempts wind up being like the second lobster scene in Annie Hall. You just can’t relive a those magical moments. On the other hand, often shiny new happy memories are layered on top of my dusty old ones. Having these layers of memories of a place or an experience (both as child and as a parent to your child) is one of the coolest parts of being a parent, isn’t it?

So we found a fair that was going on near us! (It was the Dodge County Fair outside of Beaver Dam for you WI locals.)

This is what happened…



We park in the parking lot, which is really just a grassy field. We enter the fair and as we walk up I can already smell the yummy fair smells. The corn dogs! The cotton candy! The caramel apples!

It is a hot and humid day so the kids park themselves under a tree with snow cones and we make a plan. To the right are the games and rides. To the left are the agricultural barns. We’re in the middle where the food is. Games are next.

As they eat their treats, a golf cart drives by with a young woman on the back with a crown on her head and a sash that says, “Corn Princess” and she waves at everyone. Awesome.

As we walk over to the games (throw a dart at the ballon, pick a duck and all the classics) I marvel at how little  has changed since I was a little girl.

Then I see it. I can’t believe it.

They. have. the. goldfish. game!


The game where you toss a ping pong ball into a gold fish bowl and then take home a goldfish in a plastic baggie? They actually still have it. Apparently, PETA hasn’t made their way to Beaver Damn, WI yet to save the fishes and ruin everything.  (I talk about this game as part of my fish history in my Crappy Fish post.)

I’m so excited that I whip out my phone and start taking pictures of it. This causes people to stare at me with confused looks on their faces and for a moment I’m afraid that someone is going to saunter over and say, “You’re not from around here, are you?” But nobody does.

Crappy Boy starts begging to play the fish game. “I want a fish! Can we win a fish?” I try to distract him with promises of cute animals if we head to the barns.

We move on and head to the craft and agricultural barns. This is the thing I’m the most excited about because not even Crappy Papa has been in one. We’ll get to see quilts and cows!

We go in the crafts barn first and it is split up into sections. There are displays of decorated cakes, jars of jam, plates of cookies, quilts, clothes, woodworking, leather crafting, barbed wire making, stained glass, paintings, knitting and so on. All of the things are adorned with blue, red and white ribbons. Okay, not all of the things, just the winners.


I get to the tomatoes and I’m so happy I’m practically jumping up and down and clapping. I’m reading the tags and announcing the names, “Look, so and so won the blue ribbon!” all excited and proud as though I know the person.

Crappy Boy is intrigued about how one could win a ribbon for growing a tomato or for making a birdhouse. I can tell the seeds of inspiration are planted and I have a moment of parenting satisfaction until I look over at Crappy Baby.

Crappy Baby is popping a 2nd prize cherry tomato into his mouth.



My kid is snacking on the PRIZE vegetables.

As I’m telling him to stop, the tomato is gnashed by his teeth. Too late. We have a tomato casualty. My reaction startles him though so he immediately spits it out and hands the already-been-chewed tomato to me.


I start to explain that the tomatoes and other veggies here are not for eating but he runs of to join Crappy Papa and Crappy Boy who are looking at horseshoes.

So now I’m standing there holding the evidence. Alone. Looking guilty.


People are nearby and about to turn down the tomato aisle. I have no idea where a trash can is. Someone is going to SEE me holding the tomato bits! What should I do? We could get kicked out of the fair! We could get run out of town!

Frantically, I look side to side to see if anyone is watching or noticed the infraction that just occurred.


And I do the only thing I can think of.


I swallow the evidence and quickly walk away.

It was delicious.

(To the girl who was missing a tomato: I’m sorry I ate it. My son chewed it but I ate it. If it is any conciliation, I think you deserved the blue ribbon, not the red one. Not that I tasted the blue ribbon tomatoes, but come on. Yours were the best cherry tomatoes I’ve ever stolen.) 

We head next door to the dairy barn.

Oh how I love the dairy barn! The gentle giant cows with their milky brown eyes and long lashes. Here we go!


In this particular dairy barn, the cows are in rows that you walk down, with cows on either side of you. There are no pens or stalls separating you from the animals. You’re right among them.

I notice that the cows are tethered to poles with what appears to be a thin and easily snap-able rope. Embroidery floss or kitchen twine probably.

We are also within the perfect kick-your-brains-out-of-your-head range of their hooves.


I look around and notice that we’re the only “tourists” inside the barn. Everyone else in there looks like they should be in there. And I don’t mean that in a snobby way. I mean that everyone else is wearing boots and overalls and they are busy watering or feeding or brushing or milking. Even the other young kids.

Crappy Papa must feel my hesitation because he turns to me and asks:


He defers to me on all things country. I’m the farm expert because I once lived in the country. Which is like considering someone an architect because they once lived in a house.

But I’m confident that we’re okay. We’re just being paranoid city folk. I used to play on the pasture with a steer! I used to do chores with my grandfather and feed the cows! No big deal!

That is what dairy barns are for. You are supposed to tour through them and admire the cows and notice who got the blue ribbon for prettiest udder. (No really, that’s a thing.)

So we continue. Deeper into the barn.

I look up and see a young girl (I’d guess 10-12 age range) coming down the aisle leading her giant holstein. But this cow isn’t happy. This cow is fighting her and the little girl is using her entire body weight to attempt to guide this cow down the aisle. They are going this way and that way and knocking into other cows. She struggles but continues leading the cow down the aisle.

The aisle that we were standing in.

Which meant we have to quickly get out of the way or be trampled to death by a rogue dairy cow. I can see the headlines. “Los Angeles Family Killed by a Cow” or something much more clever because I suck at titles.

We step aside next to a cow that is almost as tall as I am. We huddle together as the little girl struggles and fights to gain control of her cow who really just wants to go back outside.


And the little girl? She manages it. This tiny girl who is barely bigger than Crappy Boy handles this giant dairy cow and successfully ties the cow up in her space. 

I’m SO proud of this little girl. I’m also super relieved that we didn’t die.

This unique relief/pride combination mixes a euphoric cocktail in my brain which makes me decide right then and there that our family MUST move back to Wisconsin.

We must raise cows so our boys can learn how to handle them like this little girl did. There is no way they will grow up to be confident and happy people if they can’t lead a cow. It is just fact.

Of course, I never learned how to lead a cow. But the OPPORTUNITY was there. That is important. Sure, there were no opportunities for much else. But. COWS! Happiness! We must move to the country! We must! It is the only thing that makes sense!

Have I discussed my “rustic dream problem” here yet? I see something inspiring and suddenly I’m all, “That’s IT, we’re moving to a cabin to live off the land!” or I watch a movie about the 1960s and I’m all, “That’s IT, we’re joining a commune.” And I completely, totally talk myself into it. And I’m SERIOUS about it. I become obsessed with the idea and no amount of convincing will change my mind.

If I didn’t have the levelheadedness of Crappy Papa to remind me of simple things like reality I’d definitely be living in a homemade shack in Alabama with no running water by now.

So the cow fire had been lit. We must move to Wisconsin because of cows. Yes, that makes no sense. Yes, I know that we live in California where there are actually more cows  than in Wisconsin. But it doesn’t matter. My “rustic dream problem” has nothing to do with logic.

I keep my relocation plan for our family to myself because Crappy Papa already heard a similar one yesterday. Yesterday we went to Amish country and the women wore cotton calico dresses with bonnets and baked pies and put them on windowsills to cool. Since I have an ongoing Little House on The Prairie themed “rustic dream problem” I decided that the best thing to do was for our family to become Amish. We’ll convert. It was a great idea until Crappy Papa reminded me that no electricity (which I could handle) means no internet (which I can’t) and the plan sort of dissolved from there.

But Wisconsin! They have internet there!

So I’m thinking through all of this as we walk through the rabbit and chicken barn. I nod approvingly as Crappy Boy and Crappy Baby point out their favorites, making mental notes of the breeds for our future farm. We’re totally going to do this.

We enter the last barn which is the “kids’ zone” and they spy a game.

The game consists of a big wheel that you spin and you land on a category that has something to do with agriculture in Wisconsin. Soy, cheese, cows and such. The kid spins and then has to answer a question about that topic correctly to win a sticker.

The game is run by two little girls, about the same ages as Crappy Boy and Baby.

I brace myself for the fact that my boys will likely not know a single answer. They didn’t grow up on a farm! It isn’t their fault! We have to move here so they can experience all of it!

Crappy Boy spins and it lands on horses, which is lucky. They’ve taken horsemanship classes. They know horses.


He answers it correctly!

He continues to talk to the girl about horses and riding them and all that he knows.


She is impressed. She loves horses but doesn’t have one and has never ridden one.

Crappy Boy came away looking like a horse expert.

I’m shocked. In all my focus on what my kids aren’t getting by living where we do I lost track of all the cool things that they are experiencing. In that moment I became horribly homesick and grateful for our home.

Shortly after that, we left the fair and spent our last night in Wisconsin.

They left the fair with sticky faces and happy memories.

And I left the fair (and Wisconsin in general) with new layers of happy memories.

It was a great trip.



Nobody left with a fish. Wait, actually Crappy Baby did. But it was plastic. 



This entry was posted in crappy pictures, good stuff, outings, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

133 Responses to The Crappy Family Goes to a County Fair

  1. jenny says:

    i live in beaver dam, wi 🙂 ya!!! loved your post!

  2. Angela S. says:

    Your Wisconsin fair sounds just like our county fair! Small, animals everywhere, and we actually won fish at the fair this year. They all died 6 days later, but hey, we won them!

    Now I’m in a stand off with my husband to see how long it takes him to clean the dead bodies out. It’s been too long and he hasn’t done it.

  3. Sabrina says:

    This is awesome and so accurate! I grew up in Dane County, WI, and always feel like such an outsider now when I go home and experience these things! My daughter enjoyed her first Wisconsin county fair, although we didn’t taste the tomatoes.

    • amber says:

      I highly recommend the tomatoes. 😉

      • rita stahl says:

        Way so cool adventure in WI! Take the Crappy Family to Harmony Park next time-little red wagon full of food and #2 momma having a heart attack trying to get you 2 home. Remember Amber & Jessie?

  4. Jennifer says:

    Wisconsin fairs really are the best. As a La Crosse native living in Milwaukee the closest thing I can get to farms is the Wisconsin State Fair or the Farm at the Milwaukee County Zoo but I am proud to say I was raised on Unpasteurized fresh cow milk from my family friends’ farm (and I lived to tell about it).

  5. I live in Maribel, WI!! We took all four kiddos (me being very pregnant with #5) to our county fair and they LOVE it every year!! County fairs have such great memories too be remembered! =) Glad you enjoyed your visit to our beautiful state.

  6. Elisabeth says:

    “Beaver Damn”? Heh. Sounds like a great experience!

  7. Katie says:

    This post makes me so happy! I was born in Beaver Dam (grew up in Horicon, nearby) and went to the Dodge County Fair every year! So glad you and your guys got to enjoy the fun! I too was experiencing some “up-North” homesickness this week, but (like you) I got over it. Cheers and cheese curds to you!

  8. Cassi O. says:

    Yay so close! Manitowoc, WI!

  9. I have a similar “rustic dream problem.” Then I remember that the idea of canning tomatoes intimidates me.

    And Baguette would totally have eaten that tomato. I don’t know whether she likes tomatoes, but she cannot get through the grocery store without consuming at least one peach. Sometimes three. This is why I do not take her to farmers’ markets.

    Some day we may take her to the Ventura County Fair, though. We live in L.A., but we’re closer to their fairgrounds than to ours, and we suspect/hope that the Ventura County Fair is smaller than L.A. County’s.

    • amber says:

      That is a great idea, we haven’t tried the Ventura fair! We missed Oxnard’s Strawberry Fest this year (and other assorted small focused fairs) but those are fun too.

      • carrie says:

        But skip the Strawberry Fest. Traffic is beyond crazy. Oh, and I’m allergic to strawberries so I may be biased against it just a bit…but I refuse to take my kids to it–I’m not going to a fair where I cannot eat the food!

      • jamie says:

        The Mid State Fair (Paso Robles) is a great fair, too. Lots of the small town ag stuff, really entertaining. Also: wine.

    • carrie says:

      The Ventura County Fair is much smaller than the LA one and I highly recommend it. If for no other reason than to go see my kids’ artwork that their teacher always enters!

  10. Michelle says:

    We just made the move from the SF Bay Area to WI…best.thing.ever. for my family! 🙂

  11. Manda says:

    Aww, I got to do this this summer with my son. My dad and step mom lived in Janesville Wi until about a week ago( they moved to Az). We did the Dells thing and corn fest. Reliving childhood summers is the best! Although we are working on a farm purchase, so hopefully my kiddo will learn to handle livestock one of these days. Hehe

  12. Barbara P says:

    Ha – my kid would NEVER have eaten those prize tomatoes. (Mainly because he wouldn’t touch ANY vegetables, but that’s just a technicality.)

  13. I have that same Amish/rustic dream problem!!

    And what’s worse, we live in a huge city (Bangkok) but my husband grew up in southern Thailand, so on top of rustic dream from my childhood, I also have a tropical beach bum dream problem where sometimes I want to drop everything and move south so my boys can grow up on the beach. At least we’d still have Internet…

    • amber says:

      Oh yeah, tropical beach bum dream. I have that one too! I want to move to Kauai and just eat pineapples.

      • Kristy says:

        Move to Australia!!!
        2 dreams solved in one! 🙂 I live in Aus, & my parents own a farm half an hour away from where I live & my in laws live near the beach half an hour away in the other direction!! 🙂

  14. Andrea says:

    I think if you were killed by the cow, the news article would have “cowsualty” in the title.

  15. Lynn says:

    I am crying with laughter about the rustic dream problem, which I also suffer from. I am constantly imposing these dreams on my infinitely patient husband who keeps calmly reminding me that he refuses to raise chickens. Maybe we should start a support group?

    • amber says:

      The Rustic Dream Support Group? I’m in.

      • Misty Pratt says:

        I’ve already told my husband that 2018 is the year….the year we get our “farm.” I’ve decided to raise Nubian goats and chickens, and I will grow all of our food, just like Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Who needs a support group!? This will happen, dammit!! It will!!! 🙂

      • Taffi says:

        I’m SO in. The problem around here is that I’m married to someone with the SAME problem. I got talked into ducks this spring. The year before that, we hiked 9 miles back in the woods to stay in an old log cabin (Hobbs Cabin here in TN) for a week . Did I mention I was 6 months pregnant and potty training my 16 month old? And we still do this stuff with our 4th and final one on the way. But I’m always glad to get back to internet 🙂

  16. Ginger says:

    Loved this post!! And glad your back 😀

  17. Amber says:

    We live in Kenosha, and the longer we live here the more I want to stay forever! Wisconsin is pretty much my new favorite place, but maybe that’s because we moved from Virginia (my not so favorite place). Now I feel like I should actually make it to the State Fair sometime with my poor, deprived children. 😉

    • Sam says:

      Another Kenoshan here! I literally LOLed at Beaver “Damn” btw, Amber.

    • Connie says:

      My parents are from Kenosha and all my extended family lives in Kenosha! I go there all the time. I can never get enough of the SPOT and Tenutas! Yum! 🙂

  18. Deirdre says:

    Now I want to go home to WI and go to a fair. I never got a fish, but I grew up in Ripon, and my wedding flowers came from an Amish farm in the area.

  19. Nancy says:

    I too was almost trampled by a cow at the MD State Fair this year. At least a big guy was trying to control the cow. Luckily my husband saw what was happening since I was looking the other way and he saved me. You would think they could yell “Hey lady, look out!” or some other warning. Other than that, the fair was great fun.

  20. Heather says:

    Funniest post ever! I love the already been chewed tomato part! LOL I’ve never been to WI but it sounds a lot like Ohio where I’m from and now I’m homesick. 🙂

  21. Katie says:

    “If I didn’t have the levelheadedness of Crappy Papa to remind me of simple things like reality I’d definitely be living in a homemade shack in Alabama with no running water by now.”

    LMFAO I too suffer from the Rustic Dream Problem.

  22. Renée says:

    Love the Annie Hall lobster scene(s) reference!

  23. Elisa says:

    Omg, the second lobster scene in Annie Hall, perfect analogy. I am positive that my 3 yr old would have eaten the prize tomatoes. Between our pick-it-yourself garden with all-you-can-eat cherry tomatoes and the free fruit for kids program at our food coop, we’d be totally screwed in a country fair environment. Sounds like an amazing trip!!

    P.S. I did actually convince my husband to move to the country. It
    was totally beautiful and we lasted one year. We are
    city/town folk. We know that now 🙂

  24. Kara says:

    Well your post clinched my excursion to our Australian version of a county fair today. I was deciding whether to go in my sleep deprived state. But you’re right. Memories! Fairy floss! Toffee apples! (Cotton candy and candy apples for you American peeps) agricultural stalls and silly games that are hard to win things… We’re definitely there. 🙂
    Thanks for the kick up the bum I needed!

  25. Lana says:

    My husband married me because I am one of the few women he can stand (not as offensive a reason as it sounds I find it quite flattering) because I do not shop, worry about my hair, want heaps of “things” or what have you. Could very easily have been Amish it wouldn’t have bothered me. really it doesn’t. However he also cannot win because sometimes he finds me a tad too alternative. Forget “rustic dream”- i DO it. free-birth? yep.. horses? yep.. camping in caves?.. uhuh.. skinny dipping in remote lakes?.. sure.. sometimes you just gotta give stuff a try.

  26. Melissa Bedford says:

    I grew up in California and grew up on the LA County fair in Pomona. I never experienced a cow barn like what you described until I moved to WI! It scared the crap out of me at first, I thought I was going to get kicked in the head too! My partner grew up on a dairy farm in MO, so the dairy barn was a must. We now live in MO and the dairy barn has become one of my favorites! I can’t wait to see the Jersey’s every time and you know what I now look at udders too! LOL!

  27. Roberta says:

    How fun! My great grandma had a cottage in beaver dam that we used to go to every summer! Never went to the fair but my dads family is from another small town in wi so we know about the experience 🙂

  28. Maggie says:

    My husband grew up in WI & we now live in South Dakota…you need to come to one of our fairs! The state fair isn’t much bigger than the county fair you described – that will fuel your rustic dream! Oh, and we have some Little House on the Prairie stuff too 😉

  29. Jennie says:

    If you’re having a hankering for a small fair with animals, fair-food, rides, games, etc., but don’t want to fly out to WI, check out the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield. It’s only a couple hours north of Los Angeles. Just a thought!

  30. Islajmom says:

    Welcome Back Amber!! I hope you have had a great summer.
    My little family went to the carnival I went to every year as a child in early August (GB, MD!). It really is amazing to see your memories reflected back in your child eyes isn’t it?
    Funniest 3 y/o moment is when I told her I couldn’t ride the rides with her because I was pregnant (any day now!). She has been telling everyone she has bunnies in her belly since I started showing so she was very concerned about her safety on the tiny dragon roller coaster. She cracks me up.
    It was an exhaustingly warm evening filled with lots of little old ladies touching my belly while I was standing around waiting, but watching her and her daddy giggling on the “swings” and tea cups it was totally worth it. Ahhh summer. 🙂

  31. Enid says:

    Aw! We missed the Dane County Fair (SO hot that week). *waves at you from McFarland*

    We’ll also probably miss Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Fair in Jefferson. Why do all the things have to happen on the same weekend??

  32. Ellen says:

    That’s it! I’m TOTALLY MOVING BACK TO Iowa! With the family. The girls will love it! There will be an awesome farmer’s market every weekend, Des Moines has a kickin’ arts scene, so they can grow up cultured and stuff, and hubby can work remotely… and then there will be the State Fair EVERY YEAR!!! It’s my DREAM! My parents met in WI. Chances are I was conceived there. That might explain my affinity for the “Rustic Dream”, except there was no actual farming involved in my urban childhood in Des Moines. Little House on the Prairie, however? Absolutely there with that!
    PS: I scared my husband I laughed so hard about that prize tomato Thanks, I needed that! 🙂

  33. Brenda says:

    I’m dying a little at the mental image of you panicking with chewed tomato bits in your hand. Those small county fairs are the best! Not too overwhelming, but so much fun and good food. I grew up in WI, and FFA (Future Farmers of America) had a very active chapter at my high school. I had friends who worked on a dairy farm for a good chunk of high school, and while I never envied the early mornings they had, I admired the confidence they had around animals.

  34. Megan says:

    My husband is from Madison, WI and one year we were actually in Wisconsin visiting his family during the Wisconsin State Fair. It was unlike any thing I’ve ever seen!! It’s a shame it’s in August since school starts so early here in GA. We’ll never get to visit the WI State Fair again probably. Honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss about the cream puffs is about…but the deep fried Milky Way bars…the memory is making me drool…

    • I wasn’t a huge fan of the cream puffs either, but since we commemorate our year with an annual Christmas ornament, I went ahead and bought an enormous faux puff for my tree because we moved to Wisconsin this year!

  35. Lisa says:

    I live in Sheboygan WI and we just went to the state fair in Milwaukee. We had a similar cow passing experience and I always freak out about my kid getting kick in the head too!

  36. Cheri says:

    I am pretty sure that is how we ended up moving back to Wisconsin after living in South Florida for 10 years. Those small towns suck you in! We haven’t regretted it for a second. It is such a fantastic place to raise kids!

  37. Molly says:

    I have rustic dreams, too! But I think living rurally is AWESOME for kids until they turn about 12 – then things oftentimes go awry…kids get in trouble, etc. Maybe not anymore than in the suburbs? From what I’ve seen, it’s just a hunch! (Or maybe the thought just makes me feel better about Orange County being my reality. And I’m just jealous. That’s probably it. Apple Pies in windows, sigh.)
    And my husband ALWAYS talks about “getting off the grid” – he wonders if Big Bear needs a Mountain Man?? Or Mt Baldy?

  38. AngieG says:

    I’m so glad you had fun in Wisconsin. I live in Madison, and I just love Wisconsin. Nice people, love the seasons….just a great place to live.

  39. British American says:

    Aww, I totally want you to move to Wisconsin! I’m British but I live in WI and have been here for 12 years now. I’ve been to the state fair, years ago before we had kids. Wanted to go to a fair this summer, but never made it. Will have to talk my midwest hubby into it next year.

    I only just saw your WI map too from your vacation post. Love it! 😀

    Growing up in the UK, our very small town had a “show”. My Mum and I entered it one year, when I was a teenager, pretty much as a joke. But we won the prize for “plate of fancy biscuits” (cookies). Good times!

  40. Hannah says:

    By the end of the tomato story, I was laughing so hard that my children were complaining.

    • Lynalice says:

      lol I was reading this in bed at 3:30 in the morning and I laughed and woke up the grumpy man sleeping next to me >.< What else can you do when you're up with croupy babies??

  41. Micki says:

    Amber, your crappy cow is totally NOT crappy! That is such a great rendition of a cow! You must have really been passionate about this one. Loved it. Love you. And glad you didn’t get any goldfish. Those suckers die too soon and even though we know this we still get attached.

  42. Aaaamber… We have frooooozen custard! Wisconsin is calling you. Come back and live your dream! 😉

  43. Zach says:

    Wow! My mom grew up on a farm in Columbus, WI, and all of my relatives are still on the farm or in the area, including Beaver Dam (the closest city). I remember trying to get into an R- rated movie at the Beaver Dam theater as a kid–I failed.
    Also, the Dane County Fair is great. My cousins are displayed their 4-H projects there.

  44. Lynalice says:

    My family (mom, dad, two youngest siblings still at home aged 7 & 12) live in a cabin in Talkeetna, Alaska with no run ning water, rabbits, goats, geese, dogs, cats and pigs and they LOVE it and I LOVE being able to go home for a visit and take my boys to experience the life I had growing up (with running water, in Texas) I get the same rustic dream syndrome until about day 3 when I’m missing Facebook and showers and my washing machine. (They drive their laundry into town every few days). And the mosquitos…

  45. A Wisconsin transplant here! I grew up in a big city in the post-Soviet Azerbaijan and decided to spend my life in the country somewhere in my young adulthood. Then I met a boy from Wisconsin and the rest is history! We are living our back-to-the-land dream out beautifully!! Wisconsin is the place for it.

  46. Julie says:

    We drove through Beaver Dam en route to Plymouth (my hometown) for the Sheboygan County Fair! Looks like you have a lot of WI readers. Love your posts!

  47. Betsy says:

    I also live in Beaver Dam, and enjoyed the Dodge County Fair. Hearing REO Speedwagon really brought back memories! I too have been tempted to try the cherry tomatoes or cookies. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed our area! (I’m guessing if I saw you at the fair, you might not look like your drawings…) love your work and your book! Welcome back!

  48. Jade says:

    Every month in June many of the counties in Wisconsin have a “dairy farm breakfast.” You and your kids would love them! Many times you park in a field, then get a tractor ride to the barn where your pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, cheese, ice cream, and milk & coffee are served. You sit at long tables family style. After that there are dairy cows and other animals to meet/pet, kiddie crafts & games, antique tractors, and produce and other items (often handmade) for purchase. Dairy farm breakfasts make for wonderful memories. I loved them as a child, and now my son gets to experience them too. 🙂

  49. Samantha says:

    We did bring home a fair fish from our county fair ( just 2 counties over from Dodge Co) over a month ago. It’s still swimming! Glad you enjoyed reliving your county fair experience!

  50. Mo says:

    You draw a really good not crappy, crappy cow face!

    • Mo says:

      ok someone already comented about your awesome cow face, its pretty impressive though (as is the day your family had)

  51. Katelyn says:

    I bet those kids were 4-H kids in Wisconsin. You know, your kids could be in 4-H in California and you could be living the dream by making the best better and learning by doing. Go 4-H!

  52. Julie says:

    I suffer from a companion disorder, “gypsie dream problem.” For about the last ten years I’ve wanted to ditch suburban life, buy an RV, and travel the country. I totally don’t know how I managed it (I think I promised to indulge HIS rustic dream next summer), but I actually convinced him to do this. We’ve spent the last several months traveling in our 5th wheel. We’ve lived in the mountains, at a lake, on a river, and at a farm. It’s been a rad summer, but now it’s time to pack it in; after all, I did promise my husband a ranch.

  53. Tara says:

    I can’t believe you ate the tomato! I totally have a rustic living dream. But I really want to do it! 🙂

  54. Stefanie says:

    Perfect timing! Laughed till I cried!

  55. Rebecca says:

    I’m living the rustic dream and believe me, I wish I could move back to the city. I grew up in Madison but am now living in rural Wisconsin. We grow our own tomatoes (to can and make salsa), cucumbers (for pickles), have pear and apple trees, etc. All our neighbors are farmers. I miss all the conveniences of a city like restaurants and parks and a library nearby. Maybe we could switch for a year…oh wait I wouldn’t want to switch back.

  56. Melinda says:

    Amber, I have a “Little House on the Prairie” rustic dream, too! But in my fantasy, I have a time machine to go back to our technology ridden world where internet, proper dentistry and anesthesia exists. Ma, Pa and Laura are never the wiser, of course! Kidding aside, I think we all yearn for a simpler, unhurried life in some rural paradise. I’m glad you got a little dose of that on your vacation…

  57. Becky says:

    Wow, since this seems to be a Wisconsin commenter reunion of sorts, I thought I’d just check in from Manitowoc, WI! I grew up in a nearby county, and one of my high school memories was helping my friend Chrissy wash and groom her cow the night before her fair–good times.

    Now, if you’re ever in the area, might I suggest supplementing your fair with a country firemans’ picnic? If you’re lucky, you might get your kids out dancing in the polka tent…

  58. I actually SNORTED when you ate the tomato. And I’m not a snorter.

  59. Shannon says:

    My husband grew up in Beaver Dam! We’ve never been up there during the Dodge County fair, but I’ve heard about it plenty. My ILs have even worked at it. I do the same rustic dream thing every time we visit in the summer (I’m from the FL panhandle). I see a For Sale sign on a farm near his parents’ house and I’m like, that’s it. Our future homestead, where my children will learn to farm and be strong and tan (but still go to a good college). Then a few days go by and I’m like, NEVERMIND LET’S GO HOME. And then we visit in the winter and it seems like an even worse idea.
    I just took my kids down to my mom’s in FL and did the same thing, went to all the places I went to as a kid. We were at a small aquarium and my daughter picked up a starfish from the (very crowded) hands-on pool place and ran over to show me. When I yelled, NO DON’T!, she looked at me frantically, turned around, and threw it about 5 feet back into the pool. I just walked away.
    However, we live in Alabama now (military), and I just have to say, NO. Don’t.

  60. Amy Landau says:

    I have those dreams too! I read the #1 Lady’s detective agency and decided that we had to move to Botswana and live in a community that understood good Yankee values. Okay, I am completely nuts, I know, but thank goodness I have my reality driven husband who points out black mamba snakes and that I like really good hospitals nearby for my kids. Okay, but I am still slightly disgruntled that hubby isn’t more understanding of my wondrous vision. And then we go to the Cornish, NH Fair, which sounds exactly like your wonderful fair halfway across the country. THen we have to go live in Cornish NH where my children will learn to play in the woods and give me a minute’s peace and not rot their brains on the Wii. THe magic of the woods! And has nothing to do with me putting my foot down and dragging my kids to our many nearby wondrous parks. Just thank you. I felt like I was the only lady secretly yearning for that other paradise and forgetting the special place I have at home.

  61. Angela says:

    That is my hometown county fair! Awesome! I’m elsewhere in Wisconsin now but I sometimes go back to that fair to hang out with family.

    As for the cow barns, I used to complain all the time of having to walk through them and look at all the cow butts. My dad is an agricultural salesman and he liked to see how his customer’s kid’s animals did at the fair. BORING.

  62. woolies says:

    I’m extremely impressed with your cow portrait. I’m thinking that you should sell it and make lots of money to finance your new cow farm, in Wisconsin.
    BTW, my parents were city people. I live on a little ranch, and have horses. I did have goats at one point (long story), and I want chickens but my evil husband has drawn a line. Moral of the story – it can be done. 🙂

  63. Lisa says:

    Oh, lord, the rustic dream problem! I have this.

    My mother almost converted us to Amish. Seriously.

  64. Sarah Almond says:

    The tomato part was my favorite. I’m with you-how else would you have concealed the evidence?

    I go through those phases where I think I want to go off the grid and grow my own food and make all my own clothes and homemade toilet paper. Then I remember that I hate to do most of those things and I make a box of Easy Mac and feel better.

    Was there a giant moose made of chocolate by chance? Here in Iowa we had one at our fair last year and goodness I still don’t know what kept me from jumping over those velvet ropes and taking a big bite…

  65. Aw, I loved this post! I do the whole “I loved this random country-ish thing when I was little, so clearly you will love it too” thing all the time. It never quite works out like I picture it in my head.

  66. Leanna says:

    Glad you had a good time. Sonoma county fair in Northern Calif is just like that. Warning grammar police alert it’s not “concillation” but “consolation”.

  67. Jamie H says:

    Our fair has MUCH cheaper fish games – my kids managed to spend $2 and come home with 9 fish! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
    I’m OK with that actually, because our fair also has a toss the ping pong bowl in the dish and win a rabbit….which we DID NOT play!

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  69. Stefanie says:

    So, did anyone else follow the horse link? Is that a pic of Amber in the hat and purple dress?!?

  70. Kerrie G. says:

    I laughed with tears in my eyes about the tomato. I can totally see my 2 year old doing that. (well, except that she doesn’t like tomatoes).

    I grew up in NH, lived in rural, NC, NH and CT, and yet the closest I have gotten to a country fair is driving through Durham, CT during the Durham Fair. We might have stopped, but we were trying to get to the hospital to deliver our son.

    As for the rustic living dream, not so much. I do have a dream of being self-sufficient, but with lots of solar panels for electricity and somewhere within reasonable driving distance of a mall (ie… within 50 miles). 🙂

  71. Leslie F says:

    At my first fair here in Quebec, I got thrown from a pony in a LIVE merry-go-round! Then, in the animal barn, a scary goose spat in my aunt’s eye! But, we have some hilarious pictures of us kids with all the cool junk we won 🙂

  72. Laura says:

    I don’t recommend a rustic shack in AL. I live in AL, and I couldn’t if I didn’t own AC! lol!

  73. Missy says:

    I live in small town wisconsin. There are no stop and go lights in our village, I kind of like it that way. Btw California may have more cows but our cows make better cheese curds 🙂

    You should move here. You’d make an awesome Packer fan! We have such awesome tailgate parties. Ice fishing, homemade beer, brats, and the worlds largest penny are all calling your name.

  74. Charissa says:

    I took my kids, 4 and 1, to the Dakota County (MN) fair this year, for many of the same reasons! We actually had tickets to the Demolition Derby, which I always loved as a kid (well, still do…). The kids, however, couldn’t care less. The 4 year old just wanted rides. Food? Couldn’t care less. Animals? Couldn’t care less. Crafts? Couldn’t care less. He would have liked games, I’m sure, but he was pretty much all about the rides.

    But, then, I was, too. And the Demo Derby.

  75. Jeanette says:

    From one momma to another… I always had those dreams too, unfortunately so did my husband and we ended up moving out of the city and buying land and we hate it and want to go crying back to the city because really dreams are dreams man, they aren’t reality!

  76. Lauren says:

    I laughed at your Alabama Shed comment. I live in Alabama and luckily don’t live in a shed and I also have running water 🙂 BUT I sometimes worry my kids are missing out on the “country” life I had. Getting lost in a corn field, getting up with my dad and feeding the Cows. And then I notice we are all snuggled on the couch watching a movie and realize we make our own memories and one day they will do the same….

  77. Jackie says:

    HA! I totally would have thrown the tomato under the table and tried to cover it up with dirt, as putting an already chewed anything in my mouth would make me vomit!
    I totally want to have a little house in the country with a nice horse, a couple of piglets, and a few chickens. This would last until I had to rise before dawn to feed the damn things, then I would want my city life back.
    I am glad you made some happy memories for your crappy family, and that you are back to entertain me while I goof off at work. :0)

  78. Lauren says:

    I’m not the only one with a rustic dream problem! I was all sorts of crazy after reading the hunger games, and telling my husband we have to go live in the woods in case the world dies, until he pointed out there are lots of spiders in the woods. We’re still very much in a city.

  79. Sara says:

    Awesome as always! You should totally move to Wisconsin for the Internet. And maybe the snow…

    • J. Haven says:

      We just got back from our annual WI pilgrimage – my fancy phone has no signal at my sister-in-law’s house near Red Granite, or at the lake where we camp. I can get texts through if the weather is clear and the phone is lying in exactly the right position – I love it! I really miss having the internet to use as an extra brain, though.
      Can’t give an opinion on the snow because I’m not leaving the (grown) kids at Christmas and hubby won’t fly the 6 of them out there. ;D

      We get rustic dream syndrome every year, so badly that we even figured out how we’d live – there are so many barns, outbuildings, and houses just being left to disintegrate, how great would it be to dismantle them and resell the vintage wood and dressed stone? One year we actually started discussing how to set it up, which was very exciting until we got to hazards: badgers, skunks, bees, etc could be dealt with, but poison ivy is guaranteed to be there and I’m guaranteed to break out in big itchy blisters. Oh, well ;D

  80. Jess McGregor says:

    As we have just returned home from a week at our county fair (trailers still sitting and not unpacked, except for living things!) This might be my favorite CP post yet :D. It sounds like you visited our little fair exactly, if you just substituted beef cattle for dairy. And yes, my 14, 10, and 6 year olds all showed big cattle (and at times where those girls leading cattle down the isle with a wide eyed family looking about to be run over!) and my 8 year old took her own goats, she bred, kidded, raised and trained 😀

  81. Ariana McCoy says:

    I live in Rockford IL but I totally LOVE the county fairs. This is my favorite season! And the pumpkin patches and the apple orchards LOL I go through the dairy barn also! LOVE Jersey cows!

  82. I grew up in a small rural town in southern Illinois, which is the official home of Superman. Take that Wisconsin! 😀 We had an even smaller county fair than the one you describe as there were no rides or games. I was in 4-H for most of my childhood, and my grandparents had a cattle/goat farm. I distinctly recall hating getting up at 5am and trudging down the road (we lived 2 houses down) to my grandparents’ garden to help weed or plant or whatever it was grandma wanted you to do. Today I cherish those memories and sometimes wonder if I could do it. “Rustic dream syndrome” is a perfect description of what I have. I recall the men (plus my mother) picking corn and us girls silking it for hours in August outside where the sweat dripped off everyone and every thing. I loved learning to can tomatoes and salsa and green beans and anything else you could grow. My grandmother taught me to make her apple pies by telling me there was no recipe. If I wanted to learn I had to show up at 4am to make them with her. It’s one of my most treasured memories, and I am the only person in the family that still makes those apple pies. But I know I’m way too lazy to really go out and make a living on a farm. I am soft and citified now. However, every chance I can get to do those things or take my children to them, I will. I cherish my rural upbringing and while I do not want to relive it, I do want to remember it and pass it on! Now I live in the largest city I’ve ever lived in, Minneapolis. Craziness. But I LOVE how many parks there are here and how many friends my kids have! Wouldn’t trade it for a goat or a cow in a million years. 😀

  83. Sara says:

    I grew up in a lovely little suburb of Green Bay called West De Pere. I moved to NYC about a year ago because of some wild dream involving producing my own television shows I was infected with after watching too much Xena Warrior Princess as a child. So far so good here I suppose, but I WANT TO WIN A GOLDFISH!!! ….AND A SPOTTED COW!! (you WI drunks know what I’m talking about 😉 )
    Great post, made many fond memories float to the surface for me–Thank you 🙂

  84. Joanna says:

    Hey! I’m originally from Green Bay Wisconsin! =D

  85. Katie Eaton says:

    I went back to Michigan to visit my parents about a month ago and in the four days I was there we had a mandatory trip to the fair that I showed at every year. I still can even recite the 4-h pledge without thinking about it 🙂 My little one is only a year old but she immediately bonded to the little baby pigs and fuzzy rabbits and giant bin of corn for kids to play in. It was awesome. I wanted to move back until the stress of family being around caved in on me the next day. Small county fairs are awesomeness.

  86. Amy S says:

    yay Wisconsin! (I currently live in Menomonee Falls)

  87. Mandy C says:

    Hi there. New subscriber, first-time commenter. Just gotta tell you that you had me at “They.Had.The.Goldfish.Game.” Thank you for bringing a little bit of home to my adopted home in Australia, where I’m living the Amish/Rustic/Aussie dream — with cows! Bit of bovine trivia: Apparently cows develop their own “accents” from farm to farm. Mine sound distinctly Wisconsin-ish.

  88. Brit says:

    I LOVED this post! It was hilariou; especially the part about becoming Amish! My mom & I used to drive around Amish country in Indiana when I was living in Michigan. I told her I was going to become Amish as we chased around a local teenager in his horse and buggy. I was living the dream until my mom reminded me he would probably think I was slutty since I was wearing shorts! haha

  89. Sarika says:

    Had to share my thoughts on the news headline!

    LA Family MOO-dered on WI Vacation

    Haha ok that’s all I got, folks!

  90. Amy Ballou says:

    A new fan of your blog, this post made me laugh & laugh, so much so that I am now reading this post to my husband. It is refreshing to see such a refreshing blog brought to the internet world of blogging. 🙂

  91. K. says:

    I live in Minnesota, I was also raised in part of Wisconsin, All I have to say I am glad to hear someone is actually jealous of the people who live in this area of the Midwest 🙂

  92. Maureen says:

    I almost fell over seeing Beaver Dam referenced here while I was getting caught up with the posts I hadn’t read. I grew up in Beaver Dam and finally got to take my husband there last March. He found being able to walk on the frozen lake the coolest thing ever, and spent the rest of the trip mocking me for going to a high school where the mascot was the golden beaver.

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  94. Karen says:

    OMG how did I miss this post? I remember the fish game at fairs, I haven’t seen that in years though. It is amazing that you did end up moving to Wisconsin!

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  96. Dan E says:

    Nice illustration of your Wisconsin adventure. Very unique, been smiling the whole time I’m reading this. Want to see more of this kind of article.