By Jamie Balke Explorebigsky.com Columnist

As a child, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated a county fair. As an adult, they fascinate me. I love these events for the boundless enthusiasm, energy, lights and color. Last week, I went to the Gallatin County Fair and was reminded of the first fair that I saw through adult eyes— in Wyoming; it was spectacular.

At the time, I was working near Jackson, WY, and a college friend was scheduled to come into town for a visit. It had been a very hectic week. Sleep deprived, I drove straight from work to pick him up at the airport before driving directly to the county fair. Being from the East Coast, he was very excited to experience western culture. For me, the delightfulness of the fair was only heightened by my sleep deprivation.

First on the agenda, we met up with my roommate’s co-workers to take in pig wrestling. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was not fully prepared for what it involved. Toddlers in all types of costumes toddled after a baby pig in a mud pit, tackled it, clutched it to their tiny chests, ran over to a bucket, and dumped the squealing piglet in. Toddlers are not renowned for their aim, which the piglets found out firsthand as they were flung haphazardly into the unforgiving bucket walls. The toddlers were timed. This was an all-night extravaganza of pig wrestling with different age brackets. As we were leaving, we noticed that the preparations for the advanced age group involved spraying even more water into the mud pit.

I consented to try a ride that was supposed to simulate paragliding. My friend and I spent a great deal of time speculating as to where we would land when we would undoubtedly be catapulted to our deaths by the dubious ride. I wagered it would be the deep fryer of the funnel cake stand, while my friend held fast to his prediction that we would be impaled on the basketball hoops. In the end, the ride was a total blast.

Next, we spent time checking out the different animals, and in one of the pavilions we encountered sheep that had been totally shaved wearing spandex clothing. One of them was rocking a leopard print number. In my sleep-deprived state, I did not immediately recognize the spandex, and for a fleeting moment of incredulity believed that I had stumbled upon a cheetah sheep.[d/cs_p]

As our group wandered about the fair, eating everything in sight, riding questionable rides, and even winning a prize, I was euphoric. This colorful show of massive proportions captivated and thrilled me.

Overall, it was an excellent evening spent with friends. By the end I was so tired that I felt like I was going to pass out, was a bit nauseous, and utterly satisfied to the core of my being.

Jamie Balke moved to Bozeman in the fall of 2009. She can generally be found behind the cover of a book, meandering down a trail or desperately trying not to kill houseplants.