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Documentary - The Grange Fair: An American Tradition

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The Grange Fair: An American Tradition
Directed by Joe Myers
Penn State Public Television
Inecom Entertainment 2008
86 minutes

If you do not know what a Grange Fair is, you will really enjoy this blue ribbon worthy documentary DVD. If you already know what this is, you will enjoy The Grange Fair: An American Tradition a little more. This is a fascinating story about ordinary people getting ready for the highlight of the farming year: a fair where everyone can show their skill and compete in everything from best cow walking to best preserve or vegetable basket. This documentary makes you wish you had known about this American tradition before and think about a way to attend the event next year.

Writer director Joe Myers makes The Grange Fair: An American Tradition fun to watch and fascinating because he builds the viewer's anticipation to see what all these farmers are talking about as their own preparations, anxiety, and excitement for the Centre County Grange Fair grow. He also manages to convey how important this bigger than Christmas for some annual event is by having some old folks bemoan they will not be able to attend the fair due to their failing health while the young folk look forward to entering their first judging event. A favorite scene is the old man and his grandson dropping off the many varieties of preserves they are entering at the judges' table: it is short and immensely telling.

Once the fair begins, Myers is very good at showing how the various participants in his documentary did in the competitions they entered. Anyone who has been to a country fair anywhere will appreciate seeing how the judging is done. The heartbreak of winning and losing or having to sell an animal you spent a year or two raising are also well shown.

This documentary DVD is also about tradition: Families return a campsite handed down from generation to generation since the turn of the last century and the Grange Fair is part of the growing up process for future and young hope to be farmers. It is also about the very best of the American spirit: everybody in this movie wants to win a ribbon and tries their very, very best to be best in their category but also shows a spirit of generosity about not winning and seeing someone else win although seeing your sibling do better can be hard.

If there is a weak spot it is the very grainy shots of the young couple at the dance. You understand why Myers put that scene there but its quality takes away from the movie. Then again, The Grange Fair - An American Tradition has to be the only documentary where you will hear a very young farmer say, "Cows are more important that video games. You don't feed it [a cow] Pepsi you know."

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