Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

I’m fortunate that the little borough where my farm is located has a small post office all our own, even if we do share the ZIP code with a larger post office in the county seat. Jody, the postmistress, is the cousin of my best friend since high school and she always gives a cheerful greeting to her many customers.

Usually I’m going to the post office because I have a package to mail to one of my far-flung relatives in other countries. Sometimes I’m mailing birthday cards that require extra postage to my grandnieces in Texas or Florida. Regardless of the occasion, while I’m at the post office, I usually buy a sheet of American flag stamps, which I call my bill-paying stamps. However, I also peruse the latest postage stamps that are available to see if there’s anything new and appealing.

In mid-August I had a wonderful surprise as my eyes fell upon a sheet of stamps that actually told a story pleasantly familiar to me. This colorful sheet of stamps bore the heading “State and County Fairs.” It depicts produce being unloaded at the fair; a young girl holding a chicken with a pig nearby and a goat in the background; a family hopefully eyeing a carousel and a Ferris wheel; and a mom steadying her young son’s balloon while other kids at a refreshment stand are buying candy apples.

Rarely has a single picture captured the spirit of a fair experience so eloquently. Actually, it’s not exactly a single picture. The panoramic view I’ve described is actually divided into four-55 cent stamps, with each one holding a share of this familiar view. At 20 Forever stamps per sheet, you see this same picture five times for just $11.

Sometimes newly issued sheets of stamps will have a story about them printed on the back of the stamp sheet. I eagerly looked for further information on the flip side of the fair stamps, but found nothing. I then went to my computer and searched for more information regarding these nifty little vignettes of what is best about fairs. At https://about.usps.com/newsroom, I learned these stamps had been unveiled at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, North Dakota, on July 25, 2019.

“Annual events that families and communities anticipate with enthusiasm, state and county fairs provide social and educational value with opportunities to learn, teach, socialize-and to have lots of fun,” read part of the story about these attractive stamps I found at https://store.usps.com.

I was happy to read that description, because it told me it must have been written by someone who had actually attended fairs and loved them as much as I do.

This online information went on to describe both the history of fairs and their current appeal. It noted that fairs pre-date Cooperative Extension services and schools of agriculture and, in fact, fairs got their start as a way to educate farm families on the latest ways to grow things, raise livestock and run an efficient farm home. Fairs have a history of showcasing new equipment and implements for farmers to consider, too.

Competition has been a perennial part of fairs. The best, the most perfect or the biggest entries vie for prizes. As noted by the narrative about the fair postage stamps, “A lucky few proudly display the ribbons they have won.” That comment made me wonder if there had been a competition to design these stamps honoring fairs. I never learned if that was the case; however, I did read that the art director was Greg Breeding, while Mike Ryan designed the stamps using original artwork done by Mick Wiggins.

The fair stamps are further intended to call attention to today’s fairs’ new goals, such as sourcing locally produced foods. Additionally, “fairs provide opportunities for consumers to connect with farmers, identify local suppliers of organic foods or learn about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups, where consumers can buy shares in a local farmer’s seasonal produce and products.”

Reading all these comments online about the stamps make me realize there are more reasons than ever to attend local fairs. It also made me feel proud that Dennis and I attended a new fair this year for the first time. Thanks to an invitation from fair president Beverly Gruber, we got to experience The Great Allentown Fair &tstr; and quickly realized why it’s known as a “great” fair.

In closing, if you’re a fan of fairs, why not make a trip to your local post office in the near future and pick up a sheet of State and County Fair stamps? I guarantee they’ll make your day, and allow you to share that fair feeling with those to whom you’re sending letters.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.