In the old days, you could hear the horses hauling wagons laden with tents and good-smelling foods, carrying artisans, performers and animals to the long-awaited exhibition of everything the Green Mountain State had to offer. Vermonters and others still count down the days to the Vermont State Fair, and the four days of festivities planned Aug. 14-18 guarantee a bounty of entertaining events at the Rutland fairgrounds on South Main Street. Attendees can bring their families to the Barnyard Cackle Review to hear Rocky Da'Roosta and his hens rattle off family-friendly jokes or place a bet on one of Rosaire's Royal Racing pigs. They can see master magician Blaine Goad bend the laws of physics, or come for the thrill of the carnival rides before indulging in bloomin' onions — because indulging beforehand can get messy. And if the shows don't convince you to stay awhile, the music will. This year will feature Grammy-winning country star Dan Tyminski, the country stylings of Marty Wendell, Civil War-era bluegrass from the group Cracked Walnuts, and the Adirondack Fiddlers Association. There will be an open Christmas Trees and Greens exhibit where competitors will display their decorated wreaths, trees and kissing balls, and compete for prizes. Bakers are invited to bring their cookies, cakes, pies and candies to compete for taste, appearance, size and texture. Contests for both children and adults will happen every day. Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey, Holstein, Jersey, Lineback and Milking Shorthorns will be judged for three days from Aug. 15-18. On Aug. 17, all junior members are invited to participate in the Bill Weeks Memorial Showmanship contest for the chance to win the honor of champion youth dairy showman. One junior exhibitor will take home the Rita Tracey Jr. Herdsman Trophy, awarded for the cleanliness, demeanor and performance of their cattle in the ring. Quilters, seamstresses and knitters will have their handiworks on display for the opportunity to win cash prizes. Craft categories range from Duct Tape Mania to scarecrows to corn-husk dolls. In the Bergstrom building, a forest of zinnias, roses, snapdragons and cacti — and everything in between — will compete for the chance to win best blooms. Eight places are allowed for the Horse Pull on Aug. 15, where teams of Percherons, Morgans, Belgians and the like will haul up to 3,300 pounds to take home cash prizes. The same day, all things maple — from syrup to fudge to cakes and maple cream — will be judged for clarity, color, appearance and flavor, also for monetary awards. Four divisions of writers will be judged on their pieces about "What I like most about the Vermont State Fair," with authors in several age groups starting at 8 and younger. Aug. 16 brings with it the Oxen Pull in the Pulling Arena, where teams will pull in three weight classes — under 2,500 pounds, under 2,900 pounds and under 3,300 pounds — for up to $150 for first place. Photographers may enter their favorite snapshots to be judged Aug. 12 in the 12-and-under category, the "junior" group for people ages 13-17, or the "amateur" and "professional" categories for adults 18 and older. Vermont giant pumpkin growers Dan and Holly Boyce will be judging Vermont's "best and most attractive produce" all four days, and everything from apples to honey, to potatoes and shell beans will make their appearance and try to steal the show. In the past, the stage has held the legends Roy Rogers, Conway Twitty and the Charlie Daniels Band. On Friday, Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m., the headliner is West Rutland native Dan Tyminski, the voice behind Country Music Association's Single of the Year: "I am a man of Constant Sorrow," from the Coen Brothers' film "O Brother Where Art Thou," and member of the Green Mountain Bluegrass Band, the Lonesome River Band, and Union Station with Allison Krauss. The Vermont State Fair stage will also welcome Tim Brick, up-and-coming country star whose music is described as being "raw, real and honest to the core." The first Vermont State Fair happened in 1846, and was originally a one-day event called the Rutland State Fair. Though much has changed since the days when wagons brought the fair to town, the soul of the people who keep them alive remains as alive as the Green Mountains the fair calls home.

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