Maricopa County Fair Children compete in a goat showmanship competition at the Maricopa County Fair on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Phoenix.
Photo by Monserrat Apud/Cronkite News

The Maricopa County Fair was back in full swing earlier this month for the first time in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been coming since I was a kid, and it looks like what I remember,” Stephanie Dowdell said as she perused art displays.

The fair, which runs through Sunday at the Arizona Exposition and State Fairgrounds, features a carnival, food and craft vendors, livestock competitions, live music and other entertainment, including a monster-truck show.

“I don’t think there are words to describe it,” said Karen Searle, executive director of the Maricopa County Fair. “It felt like we had been in a cage, and to not be able to bring the fair for the community and celebrate agriculture, education, culture, arts and fair food felt like it had been an eternity.”

The last Maricopa County Fair took place in 2019, leaving many vendors without that income for two years.

“We took it for granted for so long,” said lemonade stand owner Michelle Davis, who has been a vendor at the fair for 20 years. “We didn’t have any business for two years, so we are very happy to get back at it.”

Davis also said the fair looked pretty much the same as it did before the pandemic, but fairgoers seemed to be enjoying everything more.

The livestock barns, with six buildings full of animals, are a county fair staple. Children and teens ages 8 to 19, many of whom are in 4-H or FFA, raise animals, and some of them spend up to a year getting ready for the county fair. Chicken, goats and other animals compete in various livestock and showmanship events.

“I’m just excited for the kids to be back in the ring and showing. They work so hard,” said Amie Blackwell, whose daughters are in FFA and 4-H. “Everybody has come together and worked so hard to make this opening so much more special for the kids.”