I love this time of the year. It’s time for the fair. That means fair rides and fair food. It also means a reunion of sorts as well. What I mean by that is, you’ll get to see people you haven’t seen in a while, maybe even years.
First, it’s the parade. Growing up I always liked going to the parade. I remember my sister, who we called Pinky, take me downtown to watch the parade on Polk street. It never got old. Seeing everyone watch the bands, the Shriners in the little tiny cars, and horses. It was the start of the fair. You couldn’t go to the fair without watching the fair parade.
As I got older, junior high, in fact. I was in the parade. I walked or I should say, marched in the parade. I was in band, playing the flute. I thought it was the coolest thing to do. Wearing that red and grey uniform with the big plastic, dome looking, furry hat. We marched and marched down Polk street and once we hit the Civic Center, I would find my sister and my mom there waiting for me. If we were pretty close to the front of the parade line, I could watch the rest of the parade. As soon as we were done, it was off with the uniform and the next stop was the parking lot of Dick Bivins Stadium. There, was the entrance to the Tri-State Fair.
Going in, we always went to look at the exhibits first. There were several buildings that had farm animals, pies, cakes, jams, quilts, and drawings with ribbons from various competitions. I always told my mom that she could win if she’d put in her rum cake or any of her ceramics, but she never did. I think she thought about it a couple of times too.
The next stop was the mid-way. It seemed like it was a mile long with all kinds of games. The basketball toss, the football toss, and the game where you threw a ping pong ball to win a goldfish. And the prizes weren’t too shabby either. Back in the day, they had the big, and when I say big, I MEAN HUGE stuffed animals. Huge stuffed animals that were bigger than you. I remember games where the prize was a painted mirror of a singer or band. Some of them had the smiley face or a whatever was popular at the time, which for me it was 80’s stuff. Somewhere in a box, I still have a painted mirror of Michael Jackson. You could also win posters too. Big posters. Maybe with the 80’s, like the hair, everything was big.
Midway down the mid-way, there were exhibits you could use your tickets to go through. These were supposed to be the “freaky” exhibits like the bearded lady, the lizard man, or my favorite, the lady without a head. You could go inside and see her breathing and moving a little without a head. She mainly laid there, but you could see movement. There was always something where her head was supposed to be. They said it was tubes to keep her alive. For a kid, it was kinda cool, but kinda creepy.
Once you got past the games, it was fair food!! Foot long corn dogs, German tacos, funnel cakes, caramel apples, turkey legs, which we always took home to my dad, frito pies, pizza, and cotton candy. Anything you can eat with one hand, because the other hand you had your prizes from the games or your giant coke.
Once you got done eating, it was off to the rides. We always walked around til we found the ride that you got inside and it would spin you around so fast that it would lift you up and you could be upside down, It was called the Gravatron.
That was always fun. They always had rides for the little kids and then the rides for the big kids. They had a haunted house and the maze of mirrors where I always banged my head on. It felt like there were rides for miles, then you went to the other side. More rides, more food, and exhibits.
If we ever got lost in the crowd, this WAS before cell phones, we would meet at the flag poles. At the flag poles is where we figured out if we wanted to walk down the mid-way again or go home. If we had a lot of stuff with us, it was back to the car, unload, and one more walk down the mid-way to grab food to eat later. This was every year til I graduated high school. Those were fun times.