Every year at the end of August, all of Bonner County looks forward to the county fair. Summer is almost over, and the nights are rapidly cooling off. The music festival has ended, though most locals weren’t able to afford the ticket prices or weren’t interested in any of the performers. High school football is still a few weeks away, but with the start of Friday Night Lights comes the start of fall, and everyone is not quite yet ready to let go of summer.
The county fair, the highlight of Bonner County culture, gives everyone one last grasp of summer to hold onto. What makes the county fair so special? It surely isn’t the rides, for there aren’t any, save for a slip-n-slide and a bouncy ball pit for the under-six crowd. One could argue that it’s the screaming deals from the Kubota and John Deere dealers on closeout tractors, but that’s not it either. The exhibit halls are packed full of farm animals, crafts, and baked goods, all waiting to be judged and ribbons awarded. Certainly these contests are drama-filled, with the newspaper on hand to write the story of which 4-H club will win the best cow and chicken awards, whether Mabel’s quilt will beat out Helga’s, and if Beatrice’s peach pie will win for the sixth year in a row. Of course, everyone turns out to view all the exhibits, but after forty-five minutes everything has been seen and commented on, and with a little luck a sheep shearing has been witnessed as a bonus.
So what makes the Bonner County Fair so special and culturally significant? Why, it’s the demolition derby, of course. Everyone knows this – everyone. Even if one couldn’t afford a ticket to the cheapest act at the music festival, much less their beer prices, one can surely be able to scrape together enough funds to buy a ticket to the demo derby, plus have enough left over for a beer or four.
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