When photographer Susan Lambert (Miller) visited all of Minnesota's 95 county fairs (some counties have more than one) for her 2009 book, "Minnesota County Fairs: Kids, Cows, Carnies, and Chow" (Minnesota Historical Society Press), she discovered they held surprisingly varied charms, from Steele's 60-year-old human cannonball to Hubbard's Dress Up Your Horse Contest. Tough call but, forced to choose, Lambert gives Koochiching, on Minnesota's northern border, points for conquering scarce resources with creativity. Fairgoers raced lawnmowers, rode a kiddy train built from halved barrels, sculpted creatures from vegetables and played "Animal Bingo," in which "they put a chicken on the board -- you can figure out how the winning number was determined."

Runner-up: Winona County (highlight: the Ugly Cake Contest)