We scheduled our family vacation during county fair week this year, in hopes that an exciting trip would distract from the annual expensive foray into the deep-fat-fryer of rural tradition. My kids have never been involved in 4H (we have more than enough aitches in our lives as it is without adding four more), so we have no obligation to attend.
Lest listeners think I’m a terribly mean mother, let me just interject that we have trekked to various county fairs every summer since the arrival of our children. We’ve actually done the fair circuit, which includes visits to at least three fairs, most summers. One county fair has a blue ferris wheel, after all. And it’s not the one that sells that unique Elvis-on-a-Stick (that’s a deep-fried banana-battered peanut butter cup with bacon, in case you were wondering). And, if we want to catch the outhouse races, we have to attend yet another of these veritable extravaganzas of rustic exuberance.
People on the High Plains live closer to any one of nine county fairs than they do a single airport, so believe me when I say that I’ve attended my share. That said, we didn’t see that missing one summer’s worth would cause too much heartbreak, especially when we could really use the $900 we typically spend on winning three small stuffed toys, to finance our vacation.
I have nothing against fairs. I love the quilts, the livestock, the tractor pulls, the rodeos, the crash-up derby, the poorly maintained rides, the pork burgers, the bingo. Okay. I can sense a bit of incredulity from the listeners, and when I read that last sentence to my husband, he snorted even louder than he does when he snores. But I honestly do love all but the last seven items on that list.
The problem is, fairs bring out the worst in my children. When we see our first drunk guy puking in the grass, my teenager -- who, as some of you may remember, is emetophobic – gets totally grossed out and throws her eleven-dollar hotdog in the trash before even asking if someone else (Joel) wants it. When we see our second barfer, a kid getting off the Tilt-a-Whirl, Millie may have a complete meltdown and spend the rest of the night sitting in the car texting friends.
Once my middle-schooler gets hopped up on funnel cakes, he becomes irascible, and I never can figure out if he’s lying about having already spent the two twenties I gave him to start the night.
And then there’s my darling Clementine, who, at age five, hasn’t experienced the bucolic charm of flies swarming her Frito pie quite as often as the rest of us have. When she’s on a cotton candy high, she has a tendency to exhibit side-effects well into the next week.
We returned from our summer vacation just a couple weeks before school started. I envisioned a period of resetting -- getting back on a schedule in preparation for the new school year. I was congratulating myself on the timing and planning, when Millicent said, in front of Clementine, “Dad’s taking us to the fair this weekend. Can Clementine come?”
I smiled a little smugly as I replied, “Of course she could go, but all the county fairs are over for the summer. At least we got to go to Coney Island though. Yay for us.”
“Mom, I have, like, really good news. They postponed the fair Dad always goes to because of the late harvest. So, we can actually go.”
Blink. Pause. Blink. Pause. Blink. “Oh, wow. That is really . . . good news.”
On a positive note, we missed the complete circuit this year, and though my older kids went three nights, Clementine was content with one evening. Even that ended early when she threw a tantrum and got chiggers from rolling in the grass. To give her credit, the big prize her older sister won for her was very ugly. I probably would have collapsed into the grass as well, but I had seen a kid puke somewhere in the near vicinity, and I didn’t want to chance getting vomit on my clothes.
Tune in next week.