Anyone even remotely familiar with small towns knows that that the biggest event of the year (next to Friday Night Football) is the County Fair. For one week, normally sensible parents forego bedtimes, healthy eating, proper hygiene and a whole lot of money in favor of the carnival life. Every year I look forward to the fair. And every year I dread it.
I have a love/hate relationship with the County Fair.
There is so much to hate about fair rides. For starters, I question their safely. Three-story mechanisms that whirl, twist, spin and gyrate while simultaneously defying gravity are assembled and disassembled every week like a fleet of Lego ships. This is terrifying. So, I think I’ll strap my kid on board and watch him rotate at g-force speed until he’s on the verge of vomiting. Here’s my 25 bucks for an armband so we can do this over and over. Now, that’s good parenting.
On the other hand, it is the terrifyingness of fair rides that makes me happy to let my kids ride them. It is a good and healthy thing for children to push the limits of their comfort from time to time. It’s empowering to do something scary. So go, Little Man, ride The Zipper and Power Surge and the Ferris Wheel (okay, maybe the Ferris Wheel is only scary for me). Be brave. Be fearless. Just please don’t vomit in the car on the way home.
The County Fair is disgusting. My apologies for my continual references to vomit, but it’s a horrifying fact of fairs. People vomit on those rides. Best case scenario, the mess is contained on the ride. Worst case scenario… ya know, let’s not even go there. But it can be bad, like the opening scene from Pitch Perfect bad.
Not only that, but after leaving the fair, there is a layer of dust on everything — our bodies, our clothes, our cars, I think even our teeth. Of course. there are the flies, too. The fair is like Club Med for flies. I guess this is because of the 24-hour buffet of discarded fried pies and animal poop that is available to them. These flies are annoying mainly because after their horse poop fly orgies, they enjoy alighting upon food and people.
And yet, maybe it’s the farm girl in me, but one of the things I love about the fair is the smell of fresh manure. As far as filth goes, that’s about the only perk, but I do dearly love it. Horse manure mingled with the scent of hay and the faint smell of funnel cakes cooking in the distance. It almost makes the dust worth it. Almost.
Speaking of funnel cakes, I love fair food. Where else can one or would one ever eat a footlong corn dog with a side of cotton candy and a snow cone chaser? The fair is a veritable smorgasbord of all things fried, processed and sticky.
Which is why I also hate fair food. The food at the fair is basically poison, deep fried and/or on a stick. I feel horrible after eating it. My kids feel horrible after eating it. And it most definitely does not mix well with those whirling, spinning rides I mentioned earlier.
Not being much of a rides person myself, I prefer to spend my time wandering through the exhibits. It’s enough to restore one’s faith in this great nation and in the next generation. There are rows upon rows of homemade jellies, canned green beans and homemade pies. There are handmade quilts, handcrafted bird houses, homegrown cucumbers, corn, tomatoes and pumpkins the size of a VW. This year someone even entered a pineapple she had grown in her living room using a solution of tap water and Epsom salt. The exhibits at the fair are a testament to American talent, ingenuity and craftsmanship.
I, on the other hand, once paid someone to sew a button on my husband’s shirt. This is why I also hate the fair exhibits. After walking through the exhibit hall, I am faced, once again, with the knowledge that I lack any sort of crafty, artistic or homesteading skills. This is a tough realization for anyone who grew up on Little House On the Prairie and who spent her childhood fancying herself a modern-day Laura Ingalls.
In fact, I have spent much of my adulthood comparing myself to Ma. Would Ma have let Laura and Mary watch this much TV? Would Ma ever stoop to store-bought Halloween costumes? Would Ma use a mix to make her margaritas? I can tell you one thing. Ma would darn sure never have eaten a footlong corn dog.
I guess I am glad the fair is only one week out of the year. On one hand, I wish my kids could have that kind of fun more often. On the other other hand, the fair is really gross and expensive. But it’s also wholesome and charming. See what I mean about the love/hate thing? Oh well, I can’t make the fair come around any sooner, but at least I have a whole year to perfect my canning skills.
— Laura Hanby Hudgen