The difference: A visit is just a few hours and just scratches the surface. Spending the day is a full-immersion experience.
In the past, we get there between 7:30 and 9:00. We park in the infield, and spend the morning visiting the animal barns, the expo hall, and the home and family arts building. Breakfast is usually a grilled cheese sandwich from the dairy bar, then it's off to the agricultural pavilions to buy a hive full of honey. By early afternoon, we've made our way to the backside of the fairgrounds. We'll mosey on over to the Pioneer Village for some old-timey music, and maybe pick up some sorghum or maple syrup. We jump on the tractor shuttle (fifty cents pays for five minutes off our feet), grab a few ribeye sandwiches, and then settle down in the Pepsi Coliseum to watch the Belgian horse show. We finally start making our way back to the car around 11:00, tired, smelly, and lugging bags of swag.
Yesterday was a pale reflection of that. First off, we didn't get to the fair until after Mass, so we didn't enter the gates until after noontime. Second, we went on a different day, so the old familiar exhibits and animal shows weren't there. We hit the expo hall first thing, and except for a booth on Catholic caskets (yes, the pine box used to bury dead monks), there wasn't anything too exciting. Lunch was deep fried vegetables, which for some reason were not up to snuff (I guess they had only been marinating in grease for four days instead of our usual ten). We wandered around a little bit, visited some of the buildings, and walked to the back acreage. We caught the shuttle early, went to the Coliseum around 2:30, and except for an occasional food run, didn't leave our seats until 6:00. We saw Percherons and Clydesdales instead of draft horses and Belgians, which I guess is the difference between an H2 and a full Humvee; still big, but not gigantic. After the 8-horse hitch (nothing like seeing and smelling 40 tons or so of trotting horseflesh to make you appreciate the internal combustion engine), we grabbed our things (travelling pretty light, just a half-empty backpack and purse) and made our way to the car. Total time from start to finish: less than 6 hours, over half of that spent in the Coliseum.
It was a nice visit, but it just didn't feel the same. Who knew a kid from suburban New Jersey would grow up to look forward to looking at pigs and farm machinery?