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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Wisconsin State Fair One of Biggest in Country

Aired August 9, 2002 - 09:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The Wisconsin State Fair is one of the biggest, and arguably the best, in the country. It doesn't change a lot from year to year.
As Jason Bellini finds out, that's what's good about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a culture that, if you're city folk, is hard to imagine still exists, where people get genuinely excited about the judging of their cow's physique.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm the 2002 Wisconsin Brown Swiss Queen.

BELLINI: At the state fair, you find it.

(on camera): Your cow has big ears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.

BELLINI (voice-over): Most of us living so far removed from the origins of our packaged food, being around a real cow -- well, for me at least -- is incredibly amusing.

(on camera): Wow, is your cow pretty happy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, very happy.

BELLINI: How can you tell?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, she's happy because she's smiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The state fair was started many years ago for the exhibit of dairy cattle, a competition between the different animals, the different breeders, to select a better livestock.

BELLINI (voice-over): The state fair changes little from year to year, generation to generation.

KAY KUSIK, FAIR ATTENDEE: And we used to take the bus out to the fair when I was a little girl in the 1940s. The parts that we like haven't changed much, no. We like the animals, and to see the animals judged, and just the core of the fair has not changed.

BELLINI: In Wisconsin, for one week, the cult of the cream puff reconvenes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ever since I was a little kid, we came down every year and got cream puffs.

BELLINI: Made from thick cream, from Wisconsin cows of course, 51 puffs per minute are sold here. Parents and grandparents buy them for their children and grandchildren, and pass on a memory from their own childhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wait in line, you watch them make them. You wait for them all year long.

BELLINI: The games at the fair, for the most part, are electronic-component free. Some of the most popular activities, the most simple ones.

(on camera): This is one of the things I remember best from when I was little and went to the state fair. It's the big green and yellow slide. It's pretty low-tech, but it's still around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We like to check the animals and, oh, the rabbits especially, because I used to raise rabbits when I was a kid.

BELLINI (voice-over): Fairgoers who come to the rabbit judging see a youth culture rarely displayed in the media, perhaps because it's not considered cool enough. Rabbit breeding, it turns out, isn't just for country bumpkins.

TEX THOMAS, RABBIT JUDGE: Because you can keep one in the garage, you can keep one in the bedroom.

BELLINI (on camera): Not all these kids come from the countryside.

THOMAS: I would say the majority of the kids that are here today come from the city.

BELLINI (voice-over): The people who produce food, who sustain a large part of a state's economy, forgive our ignorance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ask, like, "Do brown cows make brown milk?"

BELLINI: The things fun to make fun of...

(on camera): The National Dairy Queen?

BELLINI (voice-over): ... are perhaps a reminder that the new normal has not fully replaced the old normal. And children are not too jaded to appreciate the fun of yesteryear.

Jason Bellini, CNN, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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