Current Events Friday #21

It’s finally Friday I’m free again. I got my motor running for a wild weekend. It’s finally Friday. I’m out of control. Forget the workin’ blues and let the good times roll. Hopefully you’re as George Jones for Friday as you are for another installment of #CurrentEventFriday. Maybe you can celebrate at the topic of today’s post — The County Fair.

County fairs are at least in my context a time-honored tradition of Summer along with grilling out, swimming, and school vacation. I grew up of course going to the Orange County Fair in Paoli, especially when I participated in mini 4-H. I also went for years after that to see friends or classmates’ entries in the fair. Of course, there were also the usual entries of livestock and other farm animals. Plus, it was always good to get a goody bag of pens, chip clips, party favors, and hand fans from various businesses, politicians, and other civic organizations. More than that was the fair food including: elephant ears, funnel cakes, lemon shake-ups, and Italian sausages.

I also went quite often to the Harrison County Fair in Corydon growing up. It had all the same things as the Orange County Fair, but on a much larger scale. The commercial exhibitors included at the Harrison County Fair also included the big regional car dealer displaying the high dollar cars available for purchase at the dealership and U.S. Senate & House candidates rather than the state representative and senate candidates only available at Orange County. Additionally, the Harrison County Fair offered more animals and much more food offerings than Orange County as well. Harrison County’s fair also included a large midway with carnival games and rides that Orange County seldom had. Also, Harrison County had a much larger draw with the demolition derby and tractor/truck pull than Orange County. I can remember staying late on Saturday night and bleeding into Sunday Morning watching the tractor pull, sometimes through holes in the arena fence because we should have been heading back home, but dad wanted to watch the Batliner family out of nearby Floyd’s Knobs and their Massey-Ferguson tractors. Probably not the best idea for young kids, but if you can’t spoil kids occasionally, you’re not being a good parent.

I also can remember learning when talking to my cousin from North Carolina that she didn’t understand county fairs when she’d visit us in Indiana. She explained that the local town festivals were much more important and filled the role of the county fair, and the only fair worth going to was the State Fair. I can appreciate that, nothing tops the state fairs. They have ten times the exhibits, shows, vendors, and days. I’m speaking mostly of the Kentucky State Fair held every August in Louisville, I can’t remember going to the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

I write all this, and I have all kinds of fond memories of the county fairs at both Paoli and Corydon, but I’m sure my youth and the quality of nostalgia have romanticized the experiences much more than is realistic and honest. I haven’t been to the Orange County Fair in over 6 years, but I remember even the last time I went that it was underwhelming. There were only 3 food offerings, 20 commercial exhibits, and no rides. The number of craft exhibits, and animal exhibits were still the same, and the crowd was the same number, but it just didn’t seem as appealing as when I was a kid. I worked on Tuesday night at the Harrison County Fair for the homeless ministry I work for and noticed the commercial booths were sparse, even in the large air-conditioned and relatively new building. I thought maybe the craft exhibits might be better, but they were underwhelming, even the political candidate booths were lacking big names too. The food offerings are much more than in my childhood and the midway rides and games are probably just as numerous, but as I’ve gone 3 times in the 6 years I’ve been living full-time in Harrison County, I wish the fair was what it was when I was growing up. I know my mom seems disappointed in that observation as my grandfather was treasurer of the fair board for many years and worked to make sure it was a huge draw for the county. I’m sure he’d be more than a little upset and surely surprised to see what has happened to one of his favorite yearly projects.

I will admit, that at least the food offerings are still as good as before, and the arena events are just as much of a draw, but as the sun starts setting at 10 p.m. in the Summer, I’m ready to turn in and head home. It’s amazing, that’s how I know that my 10-year-old self who didn’t care that the 45-minute drive home in the wee hours of Sunday morning to get home is indignant and incredulous at 33-year old me for wanting to be home by 11 p.m. just ten minutes to home. Take heart kid, the memories are much more worth it then, than the memories now. Also, learn that the ribeye sandwich from the county cattleman’s association is much better than that cheeseburger or hotdog smothered in ketchup, or any of the insane combinations Templeton the rat came up with in Charlotte’s Web.

What about you, do you go to your local county fair? Do they stand up to when you went as a kid? Why or why not?