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Fairs provide a variety of experiences

August 3, 2013
By C. Paul Martin, M.D. , Marshall Independent

Today is the last day of the 2013 Lyon County Fair and, as such, marks the "winding down" of our regional fair season. In just three weeks, that signature event of the late Minnesota summer, the Minnesota State Fair, will remind us that school days and the fall season will quickly be upon us. Each weekend since June, the Independent has provided the sights of the surrounding city and county festivals, cultural experiences which may not always be appreciated by some of us. Remind yourself to make an effort to attend these special events now and next summerand remember that we still have celebrations today in Ghent and Hanley Falls and upcoming celebrations in Tracy and Minneota!

Fairs have been a part of our culture for centuries. Especially in agricultural areas, these seasonal gatherings have served as showplaces for agriculture, celebrations of harvest, religious feasts, historical commemorations, commercial events, and generally culturally significant passages for cultural and personal growth. One of the earliest fairs was associated with the Church of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield, London, where the "Cloth Fair" began in the 12th century and was regularly celebrated until the mid-19th century. The street next to the church retains its name as "Cloth Fair." Once located in the most tumultuous and historic part of London, it is now in a peaceful residential area of central London. Its evocative buildings and lanes have survived both the Great Fire of 1666 and the "Blitz" of WWII. In close proximity to "Cloth Fair" and the church is St. Bartholomew's Hospital, founded in 1123 for both religious and health care reasons and still one of London's major hospitals.

This early medical association with fairs is still reflected in our modern agricultural and commercial events. In my experiences attending fairs, especially the Minnesota State Fair, I have noticed a greater prominence of exhibits promoting information about medical products and services in the past 15 years than in the previous 40 years.

Why the change? Several factors come to mind: the increased perception of the population for more and better medical care and increased usage of that medical care, more prominent and widespread medical advertising, promotion of ancillary services born of increasing technology, and the increased availability of "specialists." The ever changing expectations of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, i.e., "Obamacare," with its increased role of government, including Medicare and Medicaid, and its insurance mandates for us as citizens and for our physicians and hospitals, commands our attention. Medical and Health Care is "Big Business," and presently a leading point of discussion by our government, industry, business and the health care complex itself. We all need to be informed and participating citizens and patients in this critically dynamic area of our lives. Obviously, healthcare will be a popular topic at this year's fairs.

Undoubtedly, many readers will be visiting the Minnesota State Fair. Be sure to participate in the many medical aspects of the fair, hopefully avoiding the First Aid building and the "thrilling experiences" of some rides. Areas of medical interest provide information and gifts designed to encourage interest in personal and population health care. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, U-Care, and Medica usually provide large displays, and the Minnesota Department of Health and other medical groups and societies located in the Education Building educate and promote local health care and society-specific issues. Often there is an ongoing Health Fair which provides many screening services right at the fair. Check the University of Minnesota exhibit in the Crossroads Building for health information from the Health Sciences schools and other aspects of the University.

Of course you are wondering about the medical/nutritional/caloric aspects of that widely popular aspect of the fairThe Food! Some of the newer foods this year include: bacon-wrapped shrimp, breakfast sausage corndog, deep fried meatloaf, Cajun pork rinds, deep fried bread pudding, and chocolate chili ice cream. My advice and that of my dietary consultants and fellow columnists (CR and KK) continues to hold true: "Use moderation in enjoying those one-time-a-year delights!"

Perhaps it is the time of the year, the weather, the food, the people, the ambienceat the fairs, I usually see everyone smiling! Fairs are fun, exciting and generally healthful for body and soul!

See you at the fair!



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