My wife and I have just returned from the Box Elder County Fair.

And you know what that means.We're dusty, dazed and broke.

In 40 years of fair-going, I've never seen better-looking handicrafts from Box Elder residents, nor cheaper-looking junk being handed out along the midway as prizes.

If you're looking for some breaking news, try this:

County fairs ain't what they used to be.

To begin with, people used to take fairs more seriously. I know one man who claims his farm family would sit up all night picking out the finest individual kernels of wheat from their harvest to display in Mason jars at the county fair.

Imagine kids getting excited about that today.

Imagine kids being able to recognize wheat on sight.

And imagine them getting excited about throwing baseballs to win a small, plaster of Paris image of Betty Boop.

We did.

One of the highlights of my grade school years was the night I won a cheesy little Pinocchio hat at the fair that the booth-man embroidered with my name.

Today kids hurl darts and baseballs to win wall posters of heavy metal rock bands and T-shirts emblazoned with marijuana plants and Madonna.

Even the kiddie rides have changed.

We used to get a thrill if the car-on-a-rail had a phony steering wheel in it. Today kids ride around in look-alike Range Rovers and four-by-fours.

Still, I did find a few things that will never change.

The music will always be too loud.

So will the salesmen.

Candy apples are always going to be too sticky to eat with success.

The same goes for the cotton candy.

The quilts this year were as lovely as ever, and much of the artwork was the strongest I've seen.

The hogs and Holsteins are identical to those from the thrilling days of yesteryear.

So are the politicians.

Before leaving, my wife and I stopped to chat with this year's Libertarian candidate. He had a booth near the exit.

He was pretty quick on his feet. I must have asked him 22 "yes or no" questions and didn't get a single "yes or no" answer.

He gave us a test. He said I was a moderate but my wife was an authoritarian. In fact, he soon had us spinning in circles so fast we thought we'd just climbed off the Tilt-a-Whirl.

We didn't complain, however.

It was the only ride we got for free.