Ahhhh, the county fair. The one week of the year when rules get suspended, children's bedtimes cease to exist and running into old classmates and friends is sure to be expected.

In my hometown of Roseau, Minn., the Roseau County Fair was truly the best week of the summer. It also happened to signal the end of summer. Soon, everyone would be making their trips to Grand Forks, Bemidji or Winnipeg to do their back-to-school shopping, and teachers would begin frantically trying to enjoy their last few days of freedom before the new school year began.

But for six days every third week in July, normal life would come to a halt and fair life would begin. Even after I was in college, I made it a point to take at least one morning off per week to enjoy breakfast with my dad at the 4-H stand, save up my quarters to play bingo well into the night with my Mamma and eat AT LEAST three corn dogs from Bjerk Concessions and a few cheeseburgers from the Arena Stand — sometimes all within a few hours of each other.

Regardless of how poorly I play, Bingo under the yellow lights of the Eagle's Bingo Stand with Mamma V is one of the longstanding traditions of Fair Week for all three of the Vatnsdal children. Emma Vatnsdal / The Forum
Regardless of how poorly I play, Bingo under the yellow lights of the Eagle's Bingo Stand with Mamma V is one of the longstanding traditions of Fair Week for all three of the Vatnsdal children. Emma Vatnsdal / The Forum

For residents of the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo area and beyond, for the week after the Fourth of July holiday, the fairgrounds in West Fargo come alive with the smells, sights and sounds only associated with that magical time of year.

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Well, folks, it's fair week here. And while there's only two days left to enjoy the rides, grandstand entertainment and food, here are the five best things about the fair.

Good eats

This year, over 30 vendors will call the Red River Valley Fairgrounds home throughout the six days.

Listen, I'm going to let you in on a secret: There are a few specific times during the year when calories don't count — birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals and fair week. (Also Christmas and Thanksgiving, but those seemed way too obvious to mention.)

Where else can you eat cheese curds alongside pad thai and a pork chop on a stick and wash it down with flavored lemonade and a bucket of mini doughnuts for dessert? Nowhere. That's where.

The fair is a smorgasbord of deep-fried carby goodness that few others can truly appreciate like we Midwesterners can. And boy do we appreciate it. (I appreciated it enough that I once came back to my internship at Polaris with a corn dog in each hand and one shoved in my purse. Ahh, simpler times.)

Good tunes

Grandstand entertainment at any fair tends to be the highlight of the week for many, but the grandstand entertainment at the Red River Valley Fair is nothing to turn your nose up at. With fantastic artists taking the stage every night of the week, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

A rainy Tuesday sent the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Jason Prichett back to where the cool grass grows, but things got a little hairy on Wednesday when Hairball hit the stage — giving the crowd an unforgettable experience unlike any other. Thursday was countrified as fans got the chance to ride on that long black train with "their man" Josh Turner and his special guest, North Dakota native Lexi Wyman.

On Friday, things go north of the border when Canadian rock band Theory of a Deadman comes down to North Dakota with opening act Fuel. Saturday heads back south when Kip Moore brings the audience down a "Dirt Road" with special guest Jake Rose.

Crazy contests

County fairs once were a way for FFA and 4-H children to show off their skills raising livestock and developing interests in agriculture. While many fairs are still that way — growing up in Roseau, I had friends who showed cattle and pigs at the fair from elementary school to college, many of whom won trips to the Minnesota State Fair — they have morphed into so much more.

The fair gives adults and children alike the chance to show the area what they know when it comes to their unique categories and prove that perfecting your craft can sometimes pay off. Getty Images / Special to The Forum
The fair gives adults and children alike the chance to show the area what they know when it comes to their unique categories and prove that perfecting your craft can sometimes pay off. Getty Images / Special to The Forum

Not only are there 4-H and livestock exhibits and competitions for young and old, there are also static exhibits that feature canning and baking, ceramics, fine arts, needlework, photography, home brewing and more. All of these opportunities give adults and children alike the chance to show the area what they know when it comes to their unique categories and prove that perfecting your craft can sometimes pay off.

Thrills galore

The midway, or "the rides" as we call them up Nort, is sometimes the greatest part of the fair.

While queasy parents impatiently stand in line with their eager cotton-candy fueled kiddos to get on yet another twirling, spinning hunk of metal that will surely help them see their dinner one more time, carnival workers shout from rainbow-colored tents trying to entice unsuspecting children in with promises of huge teddy bears and other cheap toys.

From the Ferris wheel to the tilt-a-whirl and the "big kid rides" that the youngins have to prove they're brave enough to ride, there's no shortage of thrilling rides that bring your heart into your throat and drop your stomach like a little kid's ice cream cone.

Special connections

The fair gives folks the opportunity to reconnect with their community.

Each year, friends and families from all over the state (and sometimes all over the country) gather together to sit and reminisce about past fairs and to catch up on each other's lives since they last saw one another. The older generation listens to music as they chat with their friends, new parents enjoy the sights and sounds of the week through the eyes of their kids and children experience the magic that one week of the year brings.

Bingo, games, hamburgers, ice cream cones and the screaming laughter of children is what the magic of the fair is all about.

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Friday 5 is a weekly column featuring quick tips, tricks, ideas and more — all in bunches of five. Readers can reach Forum reporter Emma Vatnsdal at 701-241-5517.