Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Fair

The Tri-County Fair is the fair of my childhood. This weekend my children were able to experience it. We've taken them to many different outdoor festival-type gatherings, but they had never been to a small country fair like this, and it gave me a strange pleasure to be able to give them the same "first" that I had.

My parents were never big fair-goers. It has always opened on Labor Day -- at least in my memory -- and we never went then. Labor Day has always been a day for a family gathering for us, partly because it's right around my mom's birthday.

When my mom and dad took me, it was always one night during the week after they'd gotten home from work. Because we generally went at night, the lights stand out most in my memory -- lights brightening the otherwise dingy rides; lights making the cheap game and toy stands seem a bit more welcoming; lights seeming overly bright at the food vendor carts, blinding compared to the surrounding dimness. Skeeter and I took the children at midday, so they weren't able to see those lights that burn so vividly in my memory.

The children did get to experience that quintessential dining experience that IS the fair. A middle America fair just isn't complete without cotton candy, a funnel cake, and lemonade. My parents seldom got any of those, but to me they are just as much a part of the fair as the rides or the smell of the livestock. Or perhaps I see it that way because they usually didn't get those treats.

At any rate, the Tri-County Fair was exactly as I remember it. The entrance is lined with booths from various organizations -- the police department, the fire department, churches, a local state park . . . . Spyder was in brochure heaven. I'm not sure why he is so fascinated with brochures, but he is, and he collects them at every possible opportunity. He had a field day in that section.

The booth exit leads to the entrance to the arts and crafts building, where all of the various contest entries are displayed. As a child, I always found this section was always the most boring, but as an adult, I found it fascinating. My favorite display was the flowers, but not for the flowers themselves. They weren't displayed in vases, but in glass and plastic bottles. Many were in plastic water bottles, but for some reason I was enamored with the ones displayed in the soda bottles. Even now, I'm wondering if I could get away with displaying flowers that way on the mantel -- in my most assuredly "non-country" home.

After the arts and crafts was the obligatory livestock visit. Personally, seeing and smelling chickens, cows, goats and bunnies isn't a big part of my "must-dos" on a normal day, but the fair isn't any normal day. We spent more time than necessary wandering around the smelly chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. I could have handled a little bit more of the bunnies, and the cows were glad to be rid of us. Two boys about Spyder's age who were there just before us spent their time teasing one of the cows (with a calf!) and that cow hated Spyder on sight, probably because he looked a little like the other boys. They were all wearing baseball caps and denim shorts, and I'm pretty sure that the cow wasn't interested in the little details like faces. She wasn't at all concerned when Sass and I were nearby, but she was annoyed and angry any time Spyder was in her line of vision.

The only place to go after the booths and prize winners is the midway -- food and rides. Spyder and Sass said they were dying of thirst, so we headed to one of the food vendors and bought -- you guessed it -- a lemonade, a funnel cake, and a cotton candy. Wandering around came next, of course, and Sass decided that she absolutely must ride a little carousel with dragons. We went on "armband day" where one can buy an armband for $12 and ride the rides all day. We weren't staying long, so I bought $10 worth of tickets for the two children to share rather than the armbands. Sass never did make it to the dragon carousel, but both of the children had a blast in the "Jungle of Fun" and at the big slide exactly like they have at The Bounce. Spyder and Sass used all but one ticket before we left, and I gave the extra ticket to a little boy without an armband on our way out.

The whole adventure took all of two hours and $20. I think we're going to make my small-town fair an annual tradition.

No comments: