GOING TO THE FAIR…

…or at least considering it.  I’m a little more inspired to go now that I know Marky Ramone is going to be there this year.  Thing is, I don’t want to push my luck with my foot.  It’s been pretty good except that they have me working at the entire other end of the building the last two days and I’m really feeling all that extra walking in my foot.  The cafeteria and locker room are at my regular end of the building so I’m having to hike down there when I get there in the morning, at lunch, both breaks and before I leave at the end of the day.   I dunno, it bites that my job and responsibilities there are affecting my homelife.  I can’t convey to you how pissy that makes me.  I should just say “[insert appropriate swear word here] it” and go but…  I dunno.  Whatever.  I’m sick of making decisions based on how I feel or how I’m gonna feel.

In the old days, my BFF Kate and I used to walk the perimeter of the fairgrounds several times in a night and practically every night of the week that the Fair was in town.  We used to have our favorite rides that we would ride until our tickets ran out.  I would “need” to have a blue or a rootbeer SnoCone and a half-dozen French Waffles.  Kate would “have to” have pizza and an icecream cone.  The vanilla kind covered with chocolate and nuts and a cherry.  We would both stop and buy fudge before we left the park and I would grab some cotton candy for the walk home.  She lived about 5 blocks from the park and walking was always fun and easier than finding (and paying for) a parking spot.  There were times that we would “do” the Fair all day and get our hands stamped at the gate so that we could go back at night.  We lived in a town where the Fair was the highlight of the summer and believe me, we lived for it.

Monday night there was always a huge parade that started after dinner and went on well into the night and there were fireworks after.  Up until a certain age, I was never allowed to go to the Fairgrounds after the parade because there were a gazillion firemen from half the counties in the state wandering around in various states of inebriation.  Thinking back, despite how indignant I was about that rule, it was probly a pretty good rule.

I have wonderful memories of the Parade.  I was lucky enough to have grandparents with a big old house with a yard along the parade route.  My mother’s entire family would gather there, arms laden with lawnchairs, jackets, blankets and pajamas for about nine kids and whomever else would show.  After dinner we would line up our chairs along the curb and spread blankets for the little ones to sit on, “up front” with a better chance to scramble for the candy that the firemen would throw from the trucks.  If you got enough kids yelling “Blow your siren!”  we would be rewarded with a long, loud blast of the truck siren accompanied by joyful squeals of delight from about a block’s worth of excited kids.

We would beg to sit on the curb hours before the start of the parade, which was signalled by the blowing of “Mooley” promptly at start time.  Mooley was the name given to a loud siren which I believe was originally used during the war for the air raid drills way back then.  It would start out low and rise to a very loud and high pitch and then fade back down and then go up again.  I’m pretty sure it was also the fire whistle but not sure about that…  Anyway, we would sit there excitedly as vendors would wander up and down the sides of the street barking their wares.  There would be, of course, helium balloons of every shape and size imaginable.  There were inflatable cartoon animals, whistles, hats with feathers, flags, anything that a whole bunch of could be carried by a man sporting a canvas apron with pockets for money.  I would “shop” carefully, making sure I had a firm grasp on everything there was to be had so as not to make a hasty purchase and then find something else later that I wanted more.  It was a one-shot deal so you had to be sure.  I can remember my little heart pounding in my chest when I would make my decision and wait for the vendor to come down my side of the street.  Lots of people (grown ups or “bad” kids) would cross the street to make a purchase but that seemed to risky to little me.  After a point there would be no more cars on the street as the police would put the road blocks up.  After that point there were still people and their lawnchairs marching by in search of an empty spot to park theirselves.  I would fret that they might get between me and the prize I’d decided to buy so there was more than a little anxiety involved.  Not to mention that we were closer to the big dangerous street that we were forbidden to be near any other time of the year.  The temptation to stick our little feet out into the street was sometimes unbearable.  So anyway,  the deal was that you would flag down your intended vendor, point out your prize and inquire about the price, praying against all you held dear that you had enough money.  If it was in the stars, the elation was indescribable.  And you looked all hot stuff to be sitting on the curb holding a helium balloon or an inflated Fred Flintstone until the parade actually started and you had to beg Mom or Dad to hold it in case they threw candy.  Heaven forbid that you only had one hand for candy grabbing.

The grown-ups all took turns managing kids at curbside or running inside and upstairs to “use the facilities.”  That was what was so cool about having grandparents on the parade route.  If you had to pee, you looked down the street and if there wasn’t a flashy band approaching with good drums, you could high-tail in inside, take care of your business and make it back to the blanket before you missed too much.  And chances were, if a truck with good candy just came by, there wouldn’t be another one for at least 5 more bands.

The clowns were scary.  I’m not even going to talk about them.

One of the best parts of the parade were the Shriners.  They would walk in unison wearing their balloon pants, gold painted shoes, sashes and turbans, slowly raising and lowering their swords as they slowly marched by.  A portion of the group would play what I called, “snake flutes” because they sounded like the flutes those swami guys would play in India to make the cobras come out of the baskets.  As I got older the Shriners would ride in little corvettes or on mini-bikes, criss-crossing the pavement in intricate patterns at designated places on the parade routes.  I think it was if there were “people of position” were gathered in one place, celebrating with their pricey alcoholic beverages, more likely to make donations.  My Uncle Jack was a Shriner and I was sometimes wont to sneak into the closet where he kept his gold shoes.  I was kind of disappointed to find out that they were just regular shoes, not magic, merely spray-painted metallic gold.

At some point during the parade and after dark, the grown-ups would come out and bribe one or two of us to come inside for a quick bath and to put jammies on so that we could be put to bed when we returned home.  I can still remember the fretting, sitting in the lukewarm bath that smelled of Ivory soap with the sounds of horns and drums and cheering and truck sirens wafting in through the open window in the bathroom.  I swear I was never quite dry when I would pull my jammies and slippers on … and the novelty of wearing a sweatshirt over my sleepwear was just weird but not weird enough to keep me from racing back outside to watch the end of the parade.

Traffic was always nutso after the parade.  We lived across town but my dad would never venture home until the worst of the traffic had passed.  My memory isn’t clear of where we would watch the fireworks.  I will have to think about that or ask my mom.

We would arrive home late at night worn out from the excitement.  And coming down off the sugar rush from the candy, of course.  The best part was that we could fall asleep knowing that we had a full week of riding rides ahead of us.

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10 responses to “GOING TO THE FAIR…

  1. Oh, to be young again…
    I always loved the fair. For me, it was more about the sensual overload than the fun of it. I enjoyed the sights, the sounds, the smells that came with the fair – the flashing lights in particular.
    What a great post!

  2. ahhh. Lots of memories. Great ones. We usually watched the fireworks across the street from home in the empty Kurtz’s lot.

  3. M+: I still love it, just don’t seem to get there every year. The magic isn’t quite what it was but I still love the sights and smells and sounds.

    Hazel: Thank you for the parking lot! I truly don’t remember that, I was thinking Cemetery Hill for some reason.
    Do you remember “Blow your simon!” ???

  4. What a lovely trip down memory lane. I, too, grew up where the fair was THAT important. I have some great memories from it.

  5. Sounds so familiar…I love seeing the shriners too. I was sad that the parade got rained out about 30 minutes into it. It’s been over 18 years since I’ve been home for the fair and was so looking forward to the parade, maybe next year.

  6. I love fair time. I haven’t spent as much time as usual there this week, but I have been there at least.

  7. awesome memories… made me feel like i was right there watching it all unfold

  8. The magic will never be the same. In part because you can’t get away with running around in yor PJ’s now. Besides, you’ll find a new magic in it when you get to go with your grandkids.

  9. awesome memories, the details are so good i felt like i was there too. these are the important things in life, these special memories. thanks for sharing this, i got all vakelmpt.

  10. I agree with Bob. Reading it made me feel like I was doing it all over again.
    I wish you were coming this year. I have to say nothing about the parade has changed. We should ride the Himalaya again for old time sake.
    PS I didn’t even know that Marky Ramone is here Sat. until I read it in your blog- I am seriously needing linda- therapy.

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