Steampunk Rhythms and a Ripe Banana: Fair is Pure Poetry

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- While wildfires rage to the north and east of Boise, the Western Idaho Fair opened Friday as a reminder that end-of-summer rituals can be more than the smoke and fury with which Mother Nature annually threatens the Treasure Valley.

Stroll around and you'll see wide-eyed children with an elephant ear in one hand and a fistful of ride tickets in the other, while Midway barkers tempt visitors with games of chance that always look easier to master when you're not the one forking over the cash to play.

Inside the exhibition hall, real treasures awaited fairgoers trying to beat the near-100-degree heat: ripe tomatoes tended lovingly over the length of a cool spring, hardy wheat stalks standing at attention like sentinels and elaborate floral displays that would look right at home in any Japanese guesthouse.

Displays of artwork and photos suggest the Boise area has more than its fair share of budding young talent. But veteran artists also got their due; blue ribbons fluttered from nearly every display board.

And center stage--a large blue cake with "Idaho" spelled out in bright yellow and the numerals"150" dancing where candles might go.

It's comforting to see that, in our digital age, when nearly everyone has his gaze focused on a tiny cellphone screen or is wired to earbuds and iPods, we stop and tip our hats to the crucial role that agriculture plays in the Gem State.

We ought to be thankful that the under-18 crowd can still muster enough members to keep Future Farmers of America thriving. And that the huff-and-kerplunk of vintage steam engines can still draw a crowd of the curious.

The heartbeat of America found in these places might seem like it owes its rhythm to the heavy metal tribute band performing nightly on stage, but fans of summer fairs know better. The first honest buck came from an American farmer and that is always worth celebrating.