Fair timePosted: September 19, 2005
Saturday kicked off the fall season… as far as I’m concerned anyway (too bad today’s so darn hot.) A parade downtown heralded the arrival of our annual fair. The cool breeze swept a few early bird leaves across the streets, which were lined with people of all shapes, sizes, ages and moods.
We haven’t been to the fair itself yet, but I always look forward to it. As a child, the event stirred such excitment in me, I’m sure I drove my parents batty. Getting there just before the sun set, my brother and I wiggled and whined to get to The Midway, enduring the torture of looking through the endless exhibits our folks insisted on visiting first. Mom bought Dad his annual pound of fudge from a popular candy kitchen, and he made sure she got the saltwater taffy she loved.
The distinct aroma of the livestock competitors drifted in the air, mixing with the sassy twang of the Oakridge Boys or the Gatlin Brothers singing their hearts out. Babies, sticky with the residue of goodies rocked along as their parents navigated their strollers around bulky electric cables the fueled the rides. Teenagers clumped together in groups, their letterman jackets branding them according to school loyalties. Couples of every age meander through the crowd, holding hands and creating a world of their own within the bustle.
Finally, FINALLY – – The Midway. By this time, the lights gleamed up and down each side of the long thoroughfare, like the rainbow colors of junk jewelry when held up to the sun. Putting coins on each color of a game of chance, Mom always made sure we ‘won’ our share of candy. The crispy scent of footlong corn dogs with mustard, hot cheese — and just about everything else– on a stick, mixed with warm, fresh, sweet cotton candy sent my tastebuds into a fury of indecision. In the end, after a little bit of everything and stuffed like one of the cheap teddy bears on the wall above the dart and balloon game, the draft of Tilt-A-Whirl sucked us in like cat hair into a high-dollar vacuum. Surprisingly, after all the baccanalian reverie at the food stands, the spins and undulating circles didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I was giddy. I can’t say I’ve ever seen the same shade of green my little brother turned after one memorable annual trip on this ride. Of course, this was after he became old enough to buy beer.
Some people don’t take to rides well; I remember once, Daddy stepped in to help a woman who’d had a seizure, and stopped her from swallowing her tongue. As the ambulance crew took over and Dad walked back to us with a bitten finger and he seemed even bigger than life than he already was. To our family, he was always our hero, and still is.
Daddy died, oh, it’s been nearly five years ago now. I can’t believe it, time goes by so fast. Yet when we buried him, time stood still. Mom works in the evenings now, and we are all grown up (though sometimes we dispute that.) My brother has a wife and child of his own, and I am married and hopeful.
My husband and I still go to the fair, oddly eager to see the exhibits first, waiting more patiently now for night to fall and the splendor of The Midway to rise, with its carnival barkers and myriad of sights, tastes and sounds. The Fair doesn’t seem as big as it was when I looked at it through the wide eyes of a child, and truthfully, it isn’t. Not as many exhibitors, and The Midway has been condensed to a smaller, square area of land. The musical acts are now free, but not many superstars come our way.
There’s still fun to be had, still artwork, crafts and photography to be admired, people selling stuff we really don’t need, and great, tempting food that would send a cardiologist through the roof. And at the end of the night when I buy a pound of fudge for us and a bag of saltwater taffy for my Mom, I am still happy and content, and ready to go again next year.