County Fair Tea

This week our local County Fair is being held. To me that means animals in the show rings, beautiful displays of vegetables and flowers, country music acts, carnival games and rides and best of all, food.

Everyone loves fair food. It varies around the country and it can be quite strange though. If it can be coated in batter and thrown in a deep fryer, it will probably make it to some fairgoer’s hand. I’ve seen deep fried candy bars, pickles and cake. Stabbing food onto a stick seems to be another fair favorite, turkey-on-a-stick, pork chop-on-a-stick, the ever popular corn dogs…which also have a stick. We all laugh at this kind of fair food but people enjoy it and eating it just once a year isn’t going to kill anyone.

So to celebrate fair week, I’ve put together a County Fair Tea. No, I won’t have any food on sticks but I might have a deep-fried treat. The flavors and the fun of fair food will definitely be present at this tea.

To decorate for a County Fair Tea, think folk art. If you have something you collect, gather it for the table. I have a small collection of folk art chickens that I’ll use for my tea. I have a few bale-top canning jars in a pretty blue. I’ll use those for flower vases. And for the flowers themselves, sunflowers. Use a tablecloth that coordinates with your folk art collection. I’ll use a simple blue gingham. I have plain white dishes that will keep the table from being too busy. You might consider serving tea, not in pretty flowered teacups but instead serve it in glass canning jars. You can find these with handles—good for serving hot tea.

Music for this tea can only be country. That’s not something I generally listen to but it is perfect for a County Fair Tea. I like the old twangy stuff but country music comes in a lot of different styles today and I’m sure you can find something you like. Crank it up as your guests are arriving to get everyone in the mood. Of course, you’ll want to turn it back down as soon as you begin serving.

If you want to send your guests away with a treat, caramel popcorn in a big clear bag tied with a pretty ribbon would be terrific. You could keep these ready by the door in a big basket. Since my decorating scheme is chickens, I’ll use an antique egg basket.

I don’t usually recommend games or activities for teas but for a County Fair Tea, you’ve got to play at least one game. You could play a couple rounds of Bingo and offer fall chrysanthemums as prizes. Or you might decide to play that old favorite, Now You Have It, Now You Don’t and use prizes that your guests have wrapped and brought. It is hokey for sure but everyone will recognize that, play along and have tons of laughs being silly.

Some teas are rather formal with food that perfectly fits the afternoon tea mold. We wear our best manners and speak with our inside voices, careful not to laugh too boisterously. This definitely isn’t one of those teas. Tell your guests to wear their jeans and sneakers. Keep all the fun of going to a county fair and just for this once, throw afternoon tea decorum out the window!

Tomorrow I’ll give you the County Fair Tea Menu. I think you’ll like it.