The county fair was the entertainment highlight of the year, not only for the farmers for whom it was intended, but also for us "sophisticated" city folks. We felt ourselves to be so much more worldly-wise than the yokels who swarmed in from the surrounding countryside on fair week in September. The fairgrounds were just at the southern edge of town on the road leading past Grandma Bashore's and Uncle Will Straw's and the railroad water tank. The railroad formed its eastern boundary; the creek was to the south. The grandstand for the horse races and viewing the special attractions - it was here I saw my first balloon, my first dirigible and my first airplane - and the exhibition buildings where the farmers and their wives showed the products of their year's labor all stood empty except for fair week. Then everything came to life. Then from early morning to early afternoon a steady stream of buggies, carriages and wagons passed by grandmother's front porch raising a big cloud of dust, then the stream would reverse and head back toward town and on out into the country. Horses and vehicles were left in the bottomlands along the creek during the day and some families spent the night, sleeping on the hay brought along as feed for the horses.
The long, whitewashed wooden buildings for exhibiting farm animals were at the lower end of the grounds along the creek, the half-mile track for the horse races was between the RR tracks on the east and the grandstand. Behind the grandstand was the midway with all of the shows and rides, booths and tents for selling food and knick-knacks and, in the center, the largest building on the grounds, the wooden exhibition building, where fruits, vegetables, needlework, quilts and everything else imaginable produced by the farmer or his family competed for prizes. On the day when it was my mother's turn on to work at the booth the women of our church had set up to serve vegetable soup, hamburgers and ice cream, each of us older children was given 20 cents for our noon meal. We thought it the best meal we had ever eaten. We wandered around from one attraction to another and then did it all over again a dozen times. The older girls flirted with boys they had never seen before and the boys bought felt strips to fasten on their straw hats reading "Oh You Kid" and "25Skiddoo!" When the fair was over we combed the grounds as we had at the circus in the hope of finding money or some other valuable. Hope lives forever in the human breast. The next week school started.
The county fair is still in existence. I attended one on 1919 when I was an apprentice in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, but didn't attend another one until I entered a watercolor in the Santa Cruz County Fair in Watsonville, California in 1972. The fundamental purpose was the same as it had been in the early days of the century, to give the people of the rural community an opportunity to compare what they had produced with those of their neighbors, but the entertainment, industrial exhibits and other aspects have, of course, greatly changed.
For further notes on what we did for entertainment when I was young see page 49.
Last modified on 17 May 2009 @ 14:53