It has been many years since my last visit to the Utah State Fair. I stopped going because I grew weary of the environment, and the sameness in the hawkers and gawkers. I remember the last time I went I was collared by a burial plot salesman. His persistence in my investing in a future place to lay my remains really turned me off. I was a young student at the University of Utah, and death and burial were the last things on my mind. I also remember the Ronco-type gadgetry salesmen, all plying their trades and trying to turn small gatherings into crazed buyers.

In this year's unprecedented trip (my wife was in shock that I even considered it) there were still a gadget salesman or two, or three, who knows - I try to ignore them. There were still seedy-looking men making suggestive remarks to the young women who passed within eye- and earshot of their hammer slamming, ball-throwing, bell-ringing, doll-winning contraptions. And there were still people exhibiting and people looking, but that is what the fair is all about.This year after the many years of avoidance, I had more positive impressions than I remember from the past.

On the human side, there was a small boy inside a pen, rubbing his pink and brown porkers with vegetable oil. "Why?" I asked. "To make their skin soft and clean for tomorrow's judging," he answered. "Do you like raising and taking care of them?" I again queried. "Yeah." I could tell by the tender care he was showering on his pigs that he did care, and I could tell by the soft grunting that the pigs enjoyed the pampering.

There was a lady goatkeeper stripping the last milk of her prized animal, which was standing on a wooden platform. When the last drop of milk was out, she carefully wiped it down from head to hoof, affectionately and deliberately moving back and forth, and around and around until the animal was the picture of grooming perfection. I don't know if goats smile, but it seemed to me this one did.

A father and his sons were leading a small herd of soft tan jersey bulls and cows. A tug, a push and an occasional slap on the fanny kept the fatted beasts in tow.

We visited the Fine Arts Building, brimming with work from the senior to the junior and from the professional to the amateur. I enjoy art and consider myself moderately versed on the subject. As we walked around enjoying the display, I could tell those in the crowd were very interested and sophisticated by their analysis of the various art pieces. There were pieces that the judges had ribboned for their merit that I felt were not worthy of the recognition, and other pieces that didn't get awarded that I felt should have been. But overall it was well judged, and more importantly, it was a show for the artists, it was an opportunity for their work to be reviewed by the critics and compared to the work of their peers.

The Home Arts Building was likewise representative of the many aspiring Utahns who spent countless hours working on domestic arts, each doing their best to capture the coveted "best in show" ribbon. The building is filled with everything from colorful, intricate quilts to mouth-watering bottled fruit.

Agricultural displays were plentiful, with the biggest and best of every imaginable vegetable and fruit and pumpkins and squash so large and perfectly crafted that they seemed unreal.

The fair's architecture had been spruced up. The older historic buildings were clean and fresh. The new contemporary structures for special displays, shows, food sales and dining were pleasantly designed and centrally located. We bought some delicious fruit-blend ice drinks and some spicy buffalo wings (barbecued chicken), sat on the canopied dining platform and enjoyed a parade of people. Youngsters, oldsters, crying kids, laughing kids, the short and tall, the wide and narrow, all were there to review and be reviewed.

Visiting the fair was a pleasant happening that seems to have suddenly come upon us like the cool mist of rain that has punctuated the end of a dry hot summer. It is the celebration at the end of the growing season, the time of harvest for the preparation of the thanksgiving feast and the long hibernation of winter.