The smell of fried, and of animals. Rows and rows of home-canned goods and cupcakes and Pumpkins of Unusual Size. Flashing lights on spinning rides, and excited voices trying to persuade you to buy a new gadget, or upgrade your storm windows, or to plant native plants, to wear more cotton, and to find Jesus (preferably at their place.)
Yes, it’s fair season!
I have an abiding fondness for county fairs. No idea why. I didn’t grow up on a farm, never showed animals or exhibited crafts or food, but I really enjoy ag shows and fairs. I think part of it is pure nostalgia, because I’ve always had fun when I went, and because them let me imagine for a few hours that the Mayberry R.F.D. world really exists. And because you go in the gate knowing that you are going to eat things you really shouldn’t but it’s for a good cause. And only once a year.
I have vague memories of my parents taking by toddler brother and I to garden shows when we were kids. And because my babysitter was a judge, as was her sister-in-law, and other friends ran the church food booth, she took Sib and I to the Tri-State-Fair when we were growing up. I remember staring at rows and rows of canned produce just like Mom made, but fancier. And lots of cakes and pies, home-made clothing and needlework, and animals. Oh, lots of animals, show pigs and freshly clipped and scrubbed lambs, and horses, and goats. There were tractors on display, and stuff being sold, both useful and fair-junk. We ate food from the church booths (Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Lutherans), and also got frozen chocolate covered strawberries on a stick. The next year I had braces and no more things-on-sticks or frozen stuff or caramel apples.The orthodontist actually kept open slots during fair week for all the kids (and adults) who pulled their braces loose on caramel apples and the like.
One year the babysitter’s husband came along and he won us a big stuffed teddy bear (that promptly began leaking stuffing, but I didn’t care). And I won a hairclip with feathers that caused some consternation at school because the administrators thought it was a roach-clip until they looked closely. (Didn’t wear it again because of the fuss.)
When I worked in Really Flat State, I went to tractor pulls and the closest county fair. Oh, I had a great time. One of the displays was John Deere tractors, 50+, in time order. I missed the steam-threshing and steam-tractors, but I did oogle things, sigh over other things, admired the show animals, and bought a metal scale model of an IH combine with three heads (wheat, corn, bean) that you could swap around and combine the shag rug with. Yes, I was in my 30s. So what? Alas, it was too big to fit into the car with all my other stuff when I moved, so it went to a good (farm) home. And I ate roasted corn on a stick, and corndogs, and funnel cake, and opted not to get the turkey leg.
I also got to attend the Manitoba Provincial Expo (provincial fair) by chance, and enjoyed watching the horse shows. Part of the show was team wagon competitions, six and ten-horse hitches. Watching a ten-horse hitch back a large freight wagon in a straight line, then in an assigned curve, was impressive. Heck, ten Percherons or Belgians hitched to anything is impressive! I also heard the greatest carney-patter man, probably from Ireland or possibly Newfoundland, selling a sort of pulley thing. Talk about a master at work, I think half his customers bought the gizmos just for the privilege of having heard his spiel.
So this week was the Tri-State Fair. After work I changed into suitable clothes and went to the fairgrounds. The animal judging was meat goats, and I watched for a while, then watched the open round of the cutting horse competition. Early afternoon is pretty sparse, and the midway rides are not running yet, which suited me quite well. I looked at the portable buildings, watched little kids at the petting zoo, strolled through the exhibits at the 4-H building and admired the canned goods, the quilts, the Squash of Unusual Size and some tomatoes I really wanted to take home with me, looked at the photo and art contest winners and entries, and read all the ag displays. Then I checked out the food, got a small bag of German roasted cashews (sweet-glazed with cinnamon, still warm from the roaster. Evil, evil nuts.), and funnel cake, and frozen lemonade. There weren’t as many big displays, in part because the Tri-State Farm and Ranch Show, and the Working Ranch Rodeo, are large trade expos. But I had a great time, and it was neat to see so many things remain unchanged.