By John Weiss
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Conventional wisdom is wrong — you can judge a book by its cover.
The front of “Purebred & Homegrown: America’s County Fairs” shows four children chatting outside the Rice County 4-H Revue Center in Lyons, Kan., ready to show their sheep at the county fair.
It’s a simple picture, deceptively simple.
Photographically, fairs can be a gold mine with the flashing lights of carnivals, the thrills of demolition derbies or action of horse races. Instead, the husband-wife team of Drake Hokanson and Carol Kratz of La Crosse, Wis., chose that picture.
It tells you what you need to know about what’s inside. It’s a book about America and what it once was, what it is now, and what it will be. Sizzle and hyperactivity would be wrong for what they write.
That’s the point, said Hokanson, a Winona State University mass communications professor. Fairs are timeless. They have changed from horse to tractors or cars, but the basics remain — they are places where people meet, talk, have commercial exhibits, compete for prizes in livestock, the best jellies and canned pickles. Stories and pictures about slices of pies are stories about slices of America.
Photographically, he said he would “look for that which was deeply true about the American county fair than that what was newsworthy. We were looking for what was perpetual at the fair.”
The couple spent 10 years doing research on 90 fairs in 35 states. Hearing them talk about it and reading their stories, it seems they had way too much fun to call it research.