It’s hot enough in the Midwest for the mosquitoes to spontaneously combust. The corn is high. Summer is about half over. Many of us who moved away from Iroquois County refer to this time of year as “Fair Time.”
The word is out that the Iroquois County Fair was held north of Crescent City for the fiftieth time. That probably means it’s in a good location.
I’ve heard from a bunch of classmates. Nearly everyone has fond memories of the Fair. Many of us haven’t been since the early 1980s. The Fair is one of those things that make us homesick.
Fortunately, this year, some of our friends put pictures on line. The Times-Republic put Fair articles on the internet. Other than the big cats (what’s up with that?), the Fair doesn’t seem to have changed that much. It looks like it still has a talent show, a midway, a queen, and a demolition derby.
There are still contests involving everything from baked goods to livestock. Blue ribbons are still awarded. An article about showing dogs reminded me that one year my sister showed our wiener dog (meaner than any pit bull) and got a ribbon. It’s all about feel good stuff.
I live about the same distance from the Iowa State Fair as I did from the Iroquois County Fair. It’s easy to get to the Iowa State Fair - but hard to find parking. The State Fair’s a big deal to a lot of people. Somebody wrote a novel about it (the novel was adapted into a musical - which was adapted into a movie).
The Iowa State Fair’s not a big deal to me. It lacks the charm of the Iroquois County Fair. It’s too big. There are so many animals displayed they all look the same. The carnies are snobby (it may be that, for carnies, working a state fair is like going to the big leagues).
From what I remember, at the Iroquois County Fair parking was convenient. Nobody had to walk too far to see or do anything. It had something for people of all ages. It was the place to go to catch up with classmates we hadn’t seen during the summer. It was a see and be seen place.
There were events for people of all ages and just about anybody could participate. There were opportunities to exhibit art, set forth baked goods, compete in a talent show, drive in the demolition derby, show livestock, and even (ladies) shoot for the title of Fair Queen. We all knew folks who did that stuff.
Food and drink were everywhere. Porkburgers were a staple. Lemon shakeups would quench thirst, and cotton candy was a big deal. Weren’t there crispy sweet things called elephant ears?
Remember the fun of the midway? How much metal fatigue do you think there was in those portable Ferris Wheels, Tilt-a-whirls, etc.? What was the contraption that looked like a Ferris wheel but had egg shaped cages that flipped upside down?
How many of you got suckered by carnies who gave you a Daisy air rifle that didn’t shoot straight or light baseballs to throw at heavy milk bottles? I don’t remember seeing a whole bunch of huge stuffed animals flying off the shelves.
Did you walk through the livestock area to see if anybody you knew was showing anything?
Did you hang out in the white building to listen, or dance, to live music? That’s something to miss. Even a mediocre live band is better than the digital DJ stuff my kids get nowadays.
Can you name a Fair Queen or Demolition Derby winner? You know one - or maybe more than one. The Queen and the winner of the demo derby get celebrity status.
If you don’t think the Iroquois County Fair is about the coolest thing since canned peaches I think you forgot where you came from. Sorry, that’s just how I see it. The Fair is one of those things that made our hometown a great place to be a kid.
I, for one, am glad the Times-Republic reported about the Fair. Those articles take me back. They are full of gems. For example, Just this Monday, there was a great article called “Master Showman." It quoted a young man who said: "My goat got a little rowdy.” That’s exactly what Bruce said thirty years ago when he “borrowed” a goat to put it on the WCHS roof.