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Rides, Animals, Presidential Hopefuls and Deep-Fried Everything -- It's All at the Fair

A question from Vietnam about day care in the U.S. And the new Van Halen hits the road for a North American tour. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We listen to some music from Van Halen …

Answer a question about child care in America …

And report about agricultural fairs held across the country at this time of the year.

State Fairs


Millions of Americans enjoy visiting state and county fairs in August, September and October. These agricultural fairs were traditionally held to honor the work of local farmers. Farmers and their families came to the fair to show their crops and animals and compete for prizes. Today, state fairs offer something for everyone. Shirley Griffith tells us about them.


The sounds, smells and tastes of state fairs are part of the memory of childhood for many Americans. People enjoy hot corn covered in melted butter, sticky sweet cotton candy and ice cream. Today's state fairs offer even more creative foods. All kinds of foods are deep fried and served on a stick -- from hot dogs to peach pie to cookie dough.

State and county fairs offer many things for children and adults to enjoy: games, rides, cultural exhibits and famous entertainers. There is also lots of friendly competition. Children and adults bring the farm animals and vegetables they have raised. They also bring arts and crafts projects and homemade foods. Judges then choose the best-looking pig or the largest pumpkin or the tastiest apple pie. The winners receive the highest honor, a blue ribbon.

But that is not the only competition you will find at state fairs. This year, the presidential candidates from both political parties have been visiting state fairs. The large crowds make state fairs perfect places for candidates to meet people and gain support.

The Iowa state fair in Des Moines is especially popular among presidential candidates. As many as one million people visit the fair each year. Iowa is one of two states involved in the early nominating process for presidential candidates. Every major presidential candidate visited the Iowa State Fair to campaign during eleven hot days last month.

The Iowa state fair is also famous for its butter cow. Since the early nineteen hundreds, a life-size cow has been created out of butter at the fair each year. It starts with a frame made of wood and metal. Then the sculptor shapes two hundred seventy kilograms of pure cream Iowa butter to look just like a cow. Norma Lyon retired last year after forty-six years of sculpting cows. This year’s butter cow was sculpted by her replacement, Sarah Pratt.

Day Care


Our listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Lan Tran wants to know about day care in the United States. This term describes the care of young children during the day by people other than their parents.

The Pew Research Center reported in July that about seventy-five percent of American women work full-time. Many of these working women are mothers who depend on some form of day care.

Some parents leave their children with family members, neighbors or friends. Or, they may employ a nanny. This person is a trained care-giver who either lives in the family’s home or comes to work at the house every day. Other parents use an au pair to care for their children. Au pairs are young foreign students taking part in a one-year cultural and educational exchange program. They live in the home of their American family, work about forty-five hours a week and attend classes part-time at a college or university.

Day care centers usually cost less than employing a nanny or au pair. Many large companies offer day care for their employees. This service is usually provided by a separate for-profit business. Other day care centers are not connected to companies but are also run as for-profit businesses. Some churches operate day care centers as non-profit organizations.

In-home day care is also popular. Single individuals operate these small businesses in their homes. Local laws decide the ages and number of children permitted.

The cost of day care in the United States depends on many things, such as the age of the child and where you live. The size of the day-care center and whether it is government-approved can also influence the cost. In Washington, D.C., in-home day care costs about two hundred dollars a week for each child. A for-profit day care center costs about two hundred fifty dollars a week. Non-profit church day care costs about one hundred ninety dollars a week.

Professional nannies in the Washington area earn several hundred dollars a week. However, this amount may differ depending on the number of children cared for, and the number of hours worked. Au pairs in the United States receive a small weekly wage. They also are given two weeks paid vacation and five hundred dollars toward the cost of required school work.

Most American families can stop paying for day care once the child reaches the age of five and can enter the public school system.

Van Halen



The band Van Halen formed in nineteen seventy-four. It was one of the most popular rock bands in the world before it broke up in nineteen eighty-five. Van Halen was recently honored with membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band has re-formed and is again performing some of its most popular music. Faith Lapidus has more.


The new Van Halen has begun a series of twenty-five shows across North America. The group's first performance was September twenty-seventh in Charlotte, North Carolina. Its Web site says all tickets to the shows in at least five cities were sold immediately after the group announced its plans in August.

Members of the new band are Eddie Van Halen, his brother Alex Van Halen, his sixteen-year-old son Wolfgang Van Halen and singer David Lee Roth.

Roth told reporters that Wolfgang is bringing a young energy and spirit to the band. He said the teenager chose the hit songs the band is performing. One of those is "I'm The One," from Van Halen’s first album in nineteen seventy-eight.


Van Halen was extremely successful in the past. The Guinness Book of World Records says it has had more number one hits on the Billboard Rock chart than any other band in history. Here is one of them: "Dance The Night Away.”


Van Halen’s final album was called “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” It sold more than ten million copies. We leave you now with the group’s biggest hit record from that album. It was number one on the list of most popular songs for five weeks. Here it is: "Jump.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Brianna Blake, Jill Moss and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.