Nothing says summer like the classic American fair. Nostalgia pervades the air with the smell of dust and cotton candy. Last July and August, I road-tripped down the state, documenting fairs along the way, trying to hold on to summer for an eternity. Nostalgia pervades the air with the smell of dust and cotton candy. Last July and August, I road-tripped down the state, documenting fairs along the way, trying to hold on to summer for an eternity.

My first stop was Veneta, home of the Oregon Country Fair. Now in its forty-fourth year, this fair is more spiritual journey than 4-H and is set in woods along the banks of the Long Tom River. Highlights include handcrafted wares, live music around every corner and hippie culture on shameless parade.

Next, to Canby for the Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo, where the focus is small-town America, livestock, cowboys and blue ribbons. Here rodeo queens are royalty, and rooster crowing is a prize-winning endeavor.

My tour wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the Oregon State Fair in Salem. Think steel mechanical rides covered in neon, fried foods and life-sized stuffed animals.

These transient worlds give us a chance to be a kid again. Screaming in the air as we ride the Kamikaze, working caramel corn out of our teeth or dancing in our bare feet as local bands wail. For who can be anything but nine years old as you head home at the end of the day—sleepy, face sticky and sunburned?

In the end, the summer fair is a mirage of community emerging from thin air to embrace a few days of revelry and celebration that returns to its nostalgic nothingness when the lights go out.