The very words are magic in Darke County. It’s the week that both city kids and country kids have looked forward to all summer. My fair background has always been as a city kid, so the fair for me is all fun.
Back at the turn of the century my great-grandfather was the superintendent of the Darke County Fairground. He’d walk to work every day. During fair week as he covered the blocks he collected a crowd of kids. By the time he got to the gate he was surrounded.
My aunts told me that the gatekeeper would regard the mob, then look at great-grandfather and ask sternly, “Are all of these young ‘uns yours, sir?”
Great-Grandpa would turn full circle and survey the group as they stood nervously. Then he would solemnly answer the gatekeeper, “Yep, I reckon they are.” And the kids would flood onto the grounds.
My parents took my brother and me to the fair when he was just 4 years old. I was almost nine and thought it was great. When we got home our neighbor asked my brother what he thought of the fair. “I don’t know,” he said, “I just saw a lot of knees.”
After my family moved back to Greenville when I was 10, my favorite fair day was the last one.
My mom’s whole family would meet at the fair that evening. We cousins were turned loose to play the games and roam the rides, sometimes with older cousins or younger aunts and uncles to show us the ropes. One thing we learned was that if you scream really loud on rides they let you ride longer, especially if it’s a boring ride.
When our kids were younger, I looked forward to fair week because we always got the house cleaned from top to bottom before we went to the fair. One year they didn’t get to the fair until the final Friday. After that they knew, “No clean house, no fair,” and we usually made it by Monday.
For our brood one of the big treats was “eating out” at the fair. We’d buy a big bag of ten-cent ham sandwiches (one thin slice on a round bun) and a gallon of orange drink. Then we’d “dine” at the WDRK radio building (now the Ohio Center).
After the “main course,” dessert was whatever each one chose from the food stands. Anything from red taffy apples to cotton candy to soft pretzels or snow cones.
Before we left the grounds, everyone got to choose two slices of their favorite flavor taffy to take home and enjoy. Sometimes the taffy even made it all the way home.
As the kids got older, I’d wait up for them when they went to the fair. I was always rewarded with taffy, caramel corn, fudge, soft pretzels or elephant ears—different favorites from different kids.
Now that I’m older, I enjoy watching the grandkids at the fair and meeting and chatting with old and new friends. I keep thinking maybe it’s time to sit in my lawn chair on the main drag under the grandstand and watch the parade of people go by, but I always forget my lawn chair.
Oh well, maybe next year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on Aug. 20,1997.