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State Fair: An annual competitive and recreational gathering of a state’s population, usually held in late summer or early fall. It is a larger version of a county fair, often including only exhibits or competitors that have won in their categories in the more local county fairs. – Wikipedia

“Hey mister. Step right up. You look like you still have some game.”

The Midway hawker, about 23 and darkened by the summer sun, knew what to say. I was hooked like a walleye in a Missouri River fishing contest.

He handed me the basketball and I looked up at the rim, which somehow appeared smaller than it did in high school.

I awkwardly pushed the sphere toward the hoop. The smooth, natural movement that I had anticipated was on a holiday, and the result was a “brick” that bounced off the backboard.

“Try again, mister?”

Of all of the sounds and smells of the State Fair, the lure of the Midway remains a magnet. Except that this was the Central States Fair, a mere prelude to the big show that starts this week in Huron.

Over time, and because of distance and an erosion in the agriculture population, both Rapid City and Sioux Falls have developed their own versions of the State Fair. Typically, the Central States Fair attracts about 150,000 people and the Sioux Empire about 290,000. The State Fair at Huron falls in between, with 211,000 attendees.

If possible, our family is counted among them.

Someone once said you can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.

It’s still true for many South Dakotans two and three generations removed from living on the land. We still love the exhibits, the entertainment, and of course the food, especially the beef and pork sandwiches.

Looking toward the State Fair opening day this week, I carefully scanned the lineup.

There, as always, was the name, “Sherwin Linton.”

The singer probably wasn’t at the first State Fair held in our state in 1885, but he’s been a fixture for decades. On opening day, Sherwin and his wife, Pam, and the Cotton Kings will pay tribute to Johnny Cash on the Centennial Stage, appropriately sponsored by AARP. I recall hearing him play at the Harbor Lounge in Aberdeen in the late 1960s. Then, Cleo Bee was his lead female singer; for many years now it’s been his wife who receives equal billing.

Speaking of country singers, newest members of the South Dakota Country Music Hall of Fame will be inducted at the fair on Sunday.

From cotton candy to farm machinery, this year’s fair is shaping up as a blue ribbon event. You could take your RV and stay for all five days and not see everything. But it would be fun trying.

Aug. 30, 2017