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Touring Wisconsin Food

Tag: carnival rides

Cake Decorating, Raising Animals, and Carnival Rides – Ways We Teach Children Life Skills

I think we trick our kids. We lure them with sweet flavors, bright colors, and creamy, soft textures to make them learn the hard skills life requires. At least, that was my impression after seeing the fun, elaborately-creative cake decorations on display at the Dane County Fair in Madison, WI. cake-decorating-1Children in 4-H clubs throughout the county competed for prize ribbons in cake decorating by artistically coating pieces of Styrofoam with colored frosting. The designs they painted on their simulated cakes, cookies, and cupcakes celebrate our life-changing moments and major holidays, -birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, harvest time, Christmas, and even April Fool’s Day -that day we play tricks on each other and laugh.cake-decorating-2

Recalling my own efforts to make King Lingonberry and a spiced nose cake made me appreciate the skills these children exercised in creating their masterpieces. First, the children had to choose the occasion they wished to celebrate and then look inward to tap their unique creativity. They needed to imagine, in fine detail, each colorful image they wished to paint. Then they had to plan exactly how to re-produce that image in frosting. Construction of the imagined final product had to be translated backward into a step-by-step series of actions. The tools needed to be gathered, – the workplace organized.

Then, for most, the hard work began. Any ease in seeing something gave way to the challenge of making it. Eyes, brain, muscles, hands, -the whole body had to coordinate its movements to precisely layer the frosting. Mistakes inevitably happened. Frustrated emotions were curbed and problem-solving practiced. How could the mistake be fixed? If it couldn’t, then how could the design be changed to turn the blemish into an asset? Distractions occurred and had to be ignored, -attention continually redirected to the task, hour after hour. Each child gave a day of his or her life to creating the Styrofoam cakes on display at the fair.

Elsewhere in the Exhibition Center and outside in the fairground barns, children were practicing other life skills. They were grooming and showing the animals they had spent months raising. Some children showed their pet cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. Others showed commercial livestock, -their beef and dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, lamas, goats, and poultry. The children were tested not only on the physical condition of their animals, but on their own skills in showmanship.

I watched the nervous intensity that the children focused on their animals,-readying them in the stalls, and showing them in the ring. This was serious business. Months of daily labor would be judged over the course of a few minutes.

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Food, Fun and Business at Wisconsin’s Lodi Fair

Remember in the children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, how the farm animals convinced Templeton the rat to accompany Wilbur to the fair? They painted a picture of fair grounds littered with food, -pieces of cakes, pies, corn dogs, caramel corn, and candy strewn across the field, trash cans brimming with half-full cups of root beer and lemonade. The hungry rat was irresistibly drawn to the fair by the food! But ‘most everyone else was drawn by the fun.

And fun was everywhere at the Lodi Agricultural Fair this past weekend in Lodi, Wisconsin. Yes, the traditional Wisconsin-fair treats of funnel cakes, elephant ears, home-baked pies, ice cream, fresh cheese curds, and grilled meats were abundant. Diners relaxed at picnic tables under a tent and listened to live music. The variety of entertainment, from rock-n-roll bands to polkas played on an accordion, offered something for everyone.

The easy, relaxed atmosphere of the Lodi Fair was punctuated by happy children thrilled on carnival rides, and hearkened back to earlier days in our American past. As in Wilbur and Charlotte’s day, the fair was free to enter and spread out over the large grassy field, between the baseball diamond and the old town hall.  Free rides on the wooden, hay wagon pulled by draft horses, Dick, Doris, and Doc, corralled the festival fun. 

As in olden days, the Lodi Fair serves an economic as well as a social function. Farmers and livestock buyers gather to exchange money for cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry. While waiting for auction, the animals are housed in shaded stalls and their owners sit in canvas, fold-up chairs next to them. The people set up camp, with coolers and card games, in the open-air barns, next to their prize animals which they raised from infancy. Ribbons won for size and shape are proudly tacked to the rafters and hang above the deserving animals. Outside, new models of farm equipment such as tractors, combines, and mowers stand on display. 

Yes, the purpose of today’s Lodi Fair is the same as the first Lodi Fair 146 years ago. The agricultural fair is the original form of our modern, professional conference. The fair is a central meeting ground for people in the agricultural business to exchange ideas, learn about new business practices and technologies, and form cooperative ventures. As in commercial trade shows, related-product vendors attend the fair to sell their wares.

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