I have always loved the county and state fairs even though they have been scaled back here in California (I am guessing because they are not that popular anymore). I have already loved fairs as a kid in Austria, and the American fairs and the Austrian fairs (Volksmesse) are quite similar. Both offer carnival rides, performers, livestock displays, sales people pitching cars and salad spinners and cleaners that can get rid of any stain, and crowds.
Two differences are the fair foods and the events. Austrian fair food is heavy on bratwurst and sauerkraut, gingerbread hearts, caramelized almonds, and of course beer. Even though most of that exists here as well, American fairs are known for deep-fried food, and I have learned that anything can be deep fried: candy bars and cheesecake and even Nutella. Deep fried Nutella is basically a warm doughnut filled with gooey Nutella; warm sugar and fat on a stick – what could be better!
Another difference is the events. The last fair I went to had piglet races, a rodeo, and a special bull-riding performance. These events also mean more cowboy hats and Western-style boots than I have ever seen in Austria (and not a single pair of lederhosen in sight). As typical for the U.S., the anthem is also played at the beginning of the rodeo and I cannot remember hearing the Austrian anthem at any fair.
In contrast to the large bull riding events, where professional athletes can earn millions of dollars (pro-rider Silvano Alvez has earned 5.5 million USD so far in his career), riders at county fair events are often high school or college riders, which still boggles my mind. I learned that quite a lot of colleges actually offer rodeo scholarships and plenty offer varsity rodeo teams, including three schools in California. To me, bull riding seems a lot more dangerous than football, and I am surprised that it is a high school sport, but I guess riders have to start at some point.
Sitting so close to the fence, I was impressed and fascinated by the sheer size of the bulls but especially their agility; they can jump so high and twist and turn while in the air even though they weigh 1,500 lbs or more. I cannot believe anyone is willing to get onto one of the beasts. The rodeo, and especially the bull riding, is definitely a major difference between the typical Austrian and the typical Californian fair.