Jonathan Wright


As you walk around the West Virginia State Fairgrounds the next few days during the fair’s color-splashed nine-day run, think about some things that have changed in the past decade or so.

While the basics of the fair scene are timeless, some subtle and not-so-subtle differences have crept into the scene in recent years that you may not notice unless you step back and take a more objective view of things.

First and foremost are the people.

People are people, of course, and if you took a photo of the masses of folks walking around the fairgrounds in 2004 and compared it with a photo of folks walking around in 2014—you wouldn’t notice any drastic differences in their clothing choices or hairstyles. You would have to look farther back for any noticeable contrasts on those departments, of course.

But look a bit more closely, and you will indeed see something that’s changed.

More people are looking down.

Fewer are looking where they’re going. That can make for some unpleasant mishaps, obviously, when you’re weaving your way in and out of hundreds of other fairgoers. Bumping into strangers isn’t pleasant.

Why are so many people looking down, either while walking or sitting around?

You know as well as I do.

It’s because of a small electronic device that came on the scene a few years ago and is now running rampant in our society: the ubiquitous, indispensable cell phone.

Back when cell phones were just catching on, they were used for one purpose only—making and receiving phone calls. When they weren’t being used for phone calls, there were handily put away. There was no other use for them.

Not so anymore. With the advent of texting and then Internet access on phones, there’s been more reason than ever for cell phone users to be looking down almost constantly at the monopolizing, demanding devices.

The sights and sounds of a state fair are overwhelmingly captivating. There’s literally something to grab your attention everywhere you go, at a full 360-degree angle.

There was a time—yes, there was a time—that ended just a few years ago when nearly every head at the state fair was up and all eyes took in their surroundings with wonder and abandon.

Then a mean piece of competition arrived on the scene, and apparently there’s no turning back.

If you have a phone on you while at the state fair this year—and who doesn’t?—force yourself to stay off it. Enjoy the fair without all the distractions of that attention-starved device, and you’ll find it’s much more enjoyable.

Plus—you won’t bump into people as frequently.

Not a bad trade-off.



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