Alma Shisler – The County Fair

The County Fair, the old fashioned kind, was an all day affair. Mom, Dad and all the kids would be there when the gates opened and stay until time to go home and milk the cows. There was entertainment at the grand stand. One time I remember seeing and hearing John Philip Sousa and his band.

The big thing was to see the animals being shampooed, curried and exercised to show in the show ring. It was great to win a prize, but fun to see the activity. It was like preparing for Super Bowl Sunday.

I can remember cage after cage of chickens filled with Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Buff Orphingtons – so many kinds of feathered creatures you ever saw. All sizes from pigeons, bantes and some large enough to fill a whole cage. You really had to be interested in swine to enter the swine barns. Of course, since my father raised prize winning hogs, it was important that the swine barns were a part of the day’s activities.

There was something magical about the way my dad could turn a pig into Cinderella, what a showman. Give them a good sudsy bath, dust a little baby talcum on the places that were supposed to be while and a little “jet oil” shoe polish on the places that were supposed to be black and voila – the pride of the ring– ready for the judges!

Just a few steps away was the FFA and 4H youngsters _ Never mind the livestock, the real show was the kids’ faces. They were so proud and scared and hopeful and nervous as they put their animals through their ‘just right’ poses for the judges.

Lunch at the fair was not sit down meal. We didn’t worry about cholesterol or fat foods. It was a day for corn dogs, funnel cakes and every greasy fried food that was served at the food wagons. Plenty sweet too.

Mom usually headed for the exhibit buildings where rows of gleaming mason jars, meticulously packed with perfect string beans and tomatoes were on display. In another place the jams and jellies, zealously guarded by the ladies who had produced them. A blue ribbon at the fair meant neighborhood bragging rights for years!

We rode the merry-go-round, ferris wheel and bumper cars. Between rides, we watched long, lean, lank farm boys know over milk bottles with a baseball, hoping to win a panda bear or something to impress their girlfriend or to make a girl friend.

Many wonders were revealed to us as the World’s Tallest Midget, the Bearded Lady, etc. In the grandstand harness races were in progress. Nowadays it would likely be car races or humungous tractor pulls. After the show, w would revisit the favorite horse barns and head for home.

For one day of glitter and garble, everyone forget about the drought and 10 cent per bushel corn and the debt mounted up on the homestead and all the worry of the depression. Fairs were magic and some still are. Maybe it was because they attracted real people, the ones who smile and are quick to shake hands and are proud of their kids.

Times seem to have changed and things are much different today, or am I getting old?

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