Summer enters the home stretch this week, which means August has arrived and we're at the height of fair time.

The St. Croix County Fair wrapped up in July, but people are still talking about it. Across the river, Washington County Fair runs Aug. 2-6 in Stillwater and then it is Wisconsin's turn again with the Pierce County Fair Aug. 10-13 in Ellsworth.

Not that long ago - in the days before frozen corn dogs and permanent amusement parks (indoor and out) - the county fair offered good eats and big thrills you couldn't experience at any other time of year. The fair was a treat for the senses.

Times have changed, but dedicated fairgoers know that the fair's center focus hasn't: It's the people that make a county fair great.

The fair's full flavor comes with the opportunity to socialize with friends and neighbors while enjoying a little friendly competition. The fair still offers a chance to see how one's efforts measure up, from the best ear of seed corn to the most well-crafted quilt, from the prize hog to the tastiest chocolate cake. The bragging rights last all year.

The fair also provides numerous learning opportunities. While this is especially true for junior exhibitors, people of all ages can learn about such things as water quality, household hazardous waste, healthy living, food preservation and more. The general public also can get a better understanding - just by walking around and taking everything in - how animals are treated and how their food is really produced.

For sure, the fair remains a place to enjoy "food on a stick," to ride a tilt-a-whirl until you're dizzy and enjoy some local, regional or national entertainment. The heart of the fair, however, is you. We'll see you there.