The fair is not my scene … outdoors in the sun, crowds of people, bees circling hot garbage cans, dizzying sounds and lights, eating and walking at the same time. Even the slightest breeze will have me chewing on my flyaways along with my pork tenderloin. Not to mention, fried foods and farm animals make for a particularly noxious aroma in the summer heat.
I leave the fair with the same souvenirs year after year: color on my cheeks, dust on my shoes and, inexplicably, dirt underneath my fingernails. I think I outgrew the fair. Twice. Once myself and then again with my daughter when she finally became tall enough to ride every ride. But I have to admit, every day this week my commute has taken me past this year’s county fair and treated me to fond memories of my mother, or as she affectionately became known as, Grams.
Grams loved going to the fair. County or state, she wouldn’t miss it. She would step out of the house in a cowgirl hat, a blouse, white capri pants and flip flops. She would breeze into the fairgrounds in search of fried green tomatoes and a chocolate-covered banana on a stick. One of my most cherished mementos is a photo of her, my brother, and I riding an elephant at the state fair, circa 1990.
When my daughter was young, my family would all go to the fairs together, and we tried to do everything while we were there. With Grams we rode the merry-go-round and the Ferris wheel, we ate elephant ears and drank lemon shake-ups from souvenir cups, we played games and won goldfish, we rode ponies and fed goats, and we took pictures to remember it all.
For our daughter, every sight was a wonder, and every surprise was spectacular. Grams’s spirit sustained us when we grew weary and felt ready to take the next trolley to the parking lot. One year, my daughter set her sights on a giant stuffed white tiger, so my husband was inspired to spend a ridiculous amount of money playing a basketball game to win it for her, only to have to cart it around for the rest of the day, pinching the seams where it was already losing some stuffing. When our daughter got a little older, Grams would come to watch her show our guinea pig in mini 4-H, cheering her on from the sidelines.
Some years, Grams was even part of the fair. We waved and took pictures when she walked in the parade and visited her booth in the big building with the other businesses.
As I pass along the county fair on my way home today, the memories are bittersweet. I ease my foot off the gas a little and crack the windows to capture a bit of the magic which hangs in the air around me. When I get home, I think I’ll throw on my old tennis shoes and I’ll ask my husband and daughter if they’d like to pop into the fair for a pineapple whip cone and a lazy lap around the grounds for old times’ sake. Grams would say it’s tradition. A fitting way to bring in the holiday weekend.
Nicole Scurlock lives in Greenfield with her husband and housecat. Their 20-year-old daughter attends
Purdue University. Nicole enjoys reading and baking in her spare time.