Unwrapping ‘State Fair’

After three decades as a photojournalist, covering presidential races and other newsworthy events for UPI, Time, and Newsweek, Arthur Grace followed up on a feeling he had and spent a couple of years visiting State Fairs in California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, mostly in 2003 and 2004. If anything, the result captures just how similar we all are…

Patriotism, big vegetables, the Midway, the animal pens, parades, carnival barkers, fried stuff it’s all the same. I’m tempted to Compare/Contrast with Kevin O’Meara’s Second Best, but they’re really two different projects. Where Second Best focuses on the Minnesota State Fair entirely, capturing some of the misfits, drunken brawls, calf birthings, and all the things you’d see in 20-odd continuous days at the Fair as a twenty-something; State Fair is more of a celebration, undertaken by a seasoned photojournalist with a clear, long term love of the Fair.  Grace is a bit kinder to his subjects than O’Meary; there are still some oddballs, but Grace isn’t trying to play jokes or anything. It’s an interesting point-counterpoint, but in both, it’s clear that we’re pretty much the same everywhere you go.

I picked up this copy from one of the many Half Price Books stores around. Almost every one of them I go into has a copy or two lying about, so it looks like the University of Texas Press printed a bunch of them. If you see one, pick it up and share in a truly (middle)American phenomenon.

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