Friday, September 2, 2011
Back to the Fair
The Walworth County Fair is back in full swing. I took myself on Wednesday, before it was too terribly hot, as it turned out to be on Thursday. Almost none of the original reasons I loved the fair as a child have any relevance to my adult self. As a kid I loved going to the fair because there were crowds of people, and I knew most of them. I could wander through any barn and find several 4-H friends, or kids I knew from school. I could mooch a quarter off my grandfather, who reigned over one busy corner in a seed-corn tent with sample stalks tied up along one wall. I could ride the Ferris wheel, Tilt-a-Whirl, or swings until vertigo compelled me to flop on a bench. I always had 4-H projects to watch during judging (the small cash premiums were nice) , or at least once a style show in which to participate. I ate a fair amount of Malone's salt water taffy in my day too.
But times change, and the fair has come to mean something different. It looks pretty much the same, with old white clapboard buildings housing the fair office, the cream puff stand and the Methodist dining hall. Some of the old wooden building are gone, replaced by metal pole buildings. The old wooden horse barns burned years ago, as did the grandstand, though the latter was rebuilt in a probably safer way. The smell is the same too, a bit of fried food, some grilled sweetcorn and barbequed pork, a bit of dust (or some years mud), of cattle and swine, of sweaty people. But I seldom see anyone I know. Maybe they are there, but I just don't recognize them, disguised as well all have become, by years. I like walking through midway, watching the excited kids lined up for rides, the bored looking carnies slumped at controls or double checking harnesses. I don't ride any more; I just take photos, hoping to some day use them as a reference for painting. Carnies don't like being photographed. Any time I ask they turn me down, so sometimes I just snap quickly and hope to capture them leaning amongst their giant stuffed toys and bowls filled with goldfish. The man who ran the camel ride concession confided to me that some of the carnies have run afoul of the law and don't want their pictured published anywhere. They're safe with me - no one will ever recognize them from my paintings.
This year I bought my fresh cream puff from the nice men wearing paper hats and aprons at the Knights of Columbus stand, and did a reasonable job of eating it without getting powered sugar all over myself. I snapped pictures of the camels, the little racing piggies, kids on rides, and wary chickens in the small animal barn. Then I was hot, footsore, and maybe a little lonesome for my grandfather, long dead, and my old friends, unseen, so I walked back downtown to my parked car and headed back home.