Abel Frake, a prosperous farmer. The story is concerned with his family’s preparations for the state fair in Des Moines and with what happens to all of them there. Abel’s chief concern is for his fine boar, Blue Boy.
Melissa Frake, his wife. She is anxious over the reception of her jars of pickles; they win three blue ribbons.
Wayne Frake, their son. Before leaving for the fair, he is concerned that his girlfriend seems changed. At the fair, he meets another girl.
Emily, the daughter of a stock-show manager. In her hotel room, she gives Wayne his first taste of liquor and his first sexual experience. She refuses his proposal of marriage because she does not want to settle down on the farm.
Margy Frake, Wayne’s sister. At the fair, she meets a newspaper reporter on a roller coaster and falls in love with him. On another night, they ride the roller coaster again and make love on a grassy spot near the tent grounds.
Pat Gilbert, the reporter Margy meets. He proposes marriage, but Margy refuses because she knows that he would be unhappy as a permanent resident of Des Moines.
Eleanor, Wayne’s girlfriend, who is home from her first year in college. She does not want to be committed to promises for the future.
Harry Ware, Margy’s suitor at home. Before leaving for the fair, she receives a proposal of marriage from him, but she is not certain of what she wants.
Blue Boy, Abel Frake’s boar. He wins.
The storekeeper, a local philosopher who bets Abel five dollars that all will not go well for him at the fair. When Abel returns home, the storekeeper pays the bet but with a sly smile in the direction of Wayne and Margy, as though he senses that he himself has really won the bet.