The University of Wisconsin Press

Popular Culture / Agriculture / Photography

Purebred and Homegrown
America's County Fairs
Drake Hokanson and Carol Kratz

Get a corn dog and meet me at the harness races!

Visit America's county fairs as they are vividly evoked through the images, stories, and voices of the people who make them happen—4-H kids, fair managers, pie judges, farmers and ranchers, rodeo queens, entertainers, food vendors, midway pitchmen, and assorted local characters. Illustrated throughout with stunning color photographs, Purebred and Homegrown is an affectionate and thoughtful look at the history of county fairs and their tradition and persistence today, despite the diminished number of Americans who earn their living from agriculture.

Author-photographers Drake Hokanson and Carol Kratz traveled 40,000 miles across America from Maine to Alaska, from Georgia to California, visiting ninety county fairs in thirty-five states. By day they interviewed, observed, and photographed; at night they camped among the carnies and the teens showing sheep, under the roller coaster, and next to the chicken barn. The story they tell goes beyond the stereotype of fairs as quaint anachronisms obsessed with giant pumpkins and instead reveals the county fair as an important institution that helped define us as a nation of free-thinking, self-reliant, community-focused people. They present the nearly 200-year-old county fair as a fountainhead of American ideals and rural life, as a place of reunion, and as perhaps the most traditional of all American celebrations.

Drake Hokanson is the author of the popular book Lincoln Highway: Main Street across America. He is the director of the Center for Mississippi River Studies at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. Carol Kratz is a physician assistant at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. They are co-editors of America from the Air: An Aviator's Story and live in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Listen to an interview with the authors:

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Cover image is red and yellow with images of children with animals at the fair.

Fall 2008

LC: 2008011963 S
200 pp.   9 x 10

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Paper $29.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-22824-8
Book icon Cloth $50.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22820-0
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Terrace Books, a trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press

"Just like a great county fair, this book is vast and overpowering. . . . To read Purebred and Homegrown: America's County Fairs is to smell hot corn dogs and barbecue and to hear the happy screams of kids on roller coasters and the moo of fat oxen in harness."
—Jane Stern and Michael Stern, authors of Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food



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