Stephanie Haines: Another Hoosier summer comes to an end

Stephanie Haines

Summer vacations have gotten shorter for school children in recent years, and I felt the effect of it this year. My presence was requested almost nightly by some young neighbors. Not just for my company, I might add, but my LED hula hoops make me popular on summer evenings.

These light-up toys work best when it’s dark. If you’re familiar with the science behind seasons, then you’ll realize that it gets pretty late before this happens in the summer. But staying out late—while getting attacked by mosquitos—is the price you pay for being the coolest (honorary) sixth grader in the neighborhood.

Here’s a random summer factoid I’ve picked up over the years: Blue popsicles seem to be the most popular. No idea why. Novelty? Most people’s favorite color? Personally I don’t want to eat anything that’s the color of Windex. And I’m also more of a chocolate type.

Summer also means the State Fair, with accompanying traditions. One is apparently forgetting just how big that place is. And hot, which makes you feel slimy, which then attracts all the dust that’s getting kicked around. But it’s part and parcel of fair rites, along with immense crowds which get squished together when everyone has to clear a path for the shuttle.

It’s always fun to strike up conversations with strangers. For instance, Courtney from Ft. Wayne had driven down to see the Beach Boys. We started chatting when a quick rain shower came through and we were both sheltering under a patio umbrella. I was able to give her directions to the stage and share some of my knowledge about food booths.

Speaking of which, I sampled various kinds of chicken—chicken-on-a-stick, chicken biscuits, chicken and waffles (with sriracha sauce!)—all fabulous. I was disappointed in the turkey BBQ donut sandwich (too sweet) and the pork BBQ atop mac and cheese. (I thought I was more open minded when it comes to mac and cheese but I admit that I’m a traditionalist.)

At one point I saw a sign advertising sushi, which horrified me. We’re in a landlocked state! It’s 90 degrees and the food booths are out in the open! It’s food poisoning waiting to happen! Then I realized that since I wasn’t wearing my regular glasses, I had misread the sign. It correctly, and more sensibly, read “slushie”.

A few frustrations were inevitable. I was having trouble finding restrooms when I happened across an Abe Lincoln impersonator. Since Abe was pretty smart, I thought about asking him where they were. I developed an attitude every time I would see “lemonade” shake up advertised. I assumed these people must not be real Hoosiers because everybody knows it’s a LEMON shake up.

I also had to accost random people with bags of kettle corn to ask where they got it. This was the one thing my parents wanted me to bring back so I was determined not to disappoint them. But I somehow managed to miss the booths selling it. I was getting blistered feet from retracing my steps, as well as irritable, thinking, “Really?! I’m at the Indiana State Fair and I can’t find CORN?”

Often Labor Day is seen as the unofficial end of summer. (The official end is the Atumnal Equinox, going back to that science of the seasons thing.) I wanted to mark the occasion so I walked with Yogi to the free concert in Riley Park in which the Brandywine Wind played American patriotic songs.

I appreciated that everyone stood for Taps; I made sure Yogi did too. But later I could tell he was hot and ready to go. Then I started to get itchy from the grass, and my nose was running. A few raindrops started falling and I thought we would have to leave. But I really wanted to hold out until the end.

The concert ended, as I had hoped it would, with “Stars and Stripes Forever.” And as the band started this song, the clouds parted for the sun to shine right on the musicians.

It was stunning; it made me stop and fully appreciate the moment. What a wonderful and awe-inspiring moment to wrap up the season of another lovely Hoosier summer.