At fair, ‘free stuff’ creates memories

Published 7:25 pm Friday, September 25, 2015

Every year, we load grandchildren in a van and take them to the fair from “Car load Night.” For $40, six of us (three adults and three children) not only get in the gate but the kids get to ride on as many rides as often as they want.

But here’s what we’ve noticed. The carnival can quickly wear children (and adults) out and we end up in the really cool parts of the fair later at night, in a bit of a rush to see as much as possible and still get the young — and old — home at a decent hour.

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And every year, the things that the grandchildren most remember are the petting zoo, the rabbits and chickens, and — above all else — the two sandboxes, one filled with corn and the other with soybeans.

The petting zoo was a roaring success this year for kids of all ages, up to and including senior citizens. Thursday night, youngsters, parents and grandparents were lined up two or three deep around the pens of goats, alpacas and miniature cattle, feeding them from tiny cups of grain that were being sold in a steady stream for $2 each.

The youngest of the three was awed by the rabbits, chickens and ducks and tried talking to the chickens with her best “pluck, pluck, pluck” sound.

This year, some tractors were left unattended and not roped off, and all three children wanted to have their picture taken aboard one. I selfishly chose an old B Farmall and shot a picture of each sitting on its driver’s seat. It was a B Farmall that I first learned to drive and with which we cultivated corn and peanut fields. Ours didn’t have the luxury of a starter, but was still equipped with its original crank. (It would break your arm if you weren’t careful when the crank kicked back.)

I thus now have photos of all five grandchildren aboard tractors during various county fairs over the past decade.

We also toured the crafts tent and all three of them enjoyed a raucous game of checkers on a giant board somebody had supplied. And from there, we toured the school tent where old school annuals gave them a chance to see their mother as a second grader. They were thrilled.

But once again, it was the soybean and corn boxes that they most loved. They roll around gleefully in the soybeans and, at some point every year, one of them invariably gets buried by the other two. In fact, one of the three told his mother before even going to the fair this year that his fondest memory from the previous year was the box with the “corn pedals.” That would be kernels to us, but he knew what he was talking about.

The carnival will always be a favored part of the fair’s entertainment, but every year, we regret spending too much time on the rides and games and then rushing through the agricultural and other exhibits before everyone is ready to quit and go home.

We may not be able to get away with this, but I’m thinking that next year we ought to try and steer the kids toward the stuff that really matters, and that seems to be creating the most lasting memories, first, and save the carnival for last.

But whichever route we take, we will surely be back at the fair yet again.

And for this year, congratulations to the county and the Fair Committee. It was once again a roaring success.