Thank Grog it’s Firday!!
As someone who grew up in the suburbs of the biggest city in my state, I admit that until I was old enough to know better, I always had a “well…isn’t that cute…” attitude about small towns and small town life. While we deemed ourselves “too sophisticated” for the silliness of most of the traditions found in small towns, I realized that even in my youth, when we would “lower ourselves to the novelty” of going to the State or County fair, I found myself envying the kids in their 4-H jackets, who got to spend the nights at the huge show barns, taking care of their prize livestock.
While just a “city slicker,” even I could tell for the most part, why one horse or cow, or even a type of chicken or rooster, was worthy of the blue ribbon that separated the champions from the also-rans. And I clearly longed for a day when I might be one of the judges in the baking division, as I walked through aisle after aisle of cookies, pies, and pastries (that were all frozen in time with a handful of slices removed by the judges).
But it wasn’t until Deb and I took our epic, 9,600 mile cross-country trip last summer, that we truly understood what our “modern culture” may be missing in regards to true civic pride, small town culture, and a sense of community that is all but lost in the cities, as we all become addicted to our electronics, 24-hour news, and politics that are settled by Facebook, rather than face-to-face conversations.
You decide…and then let us know your favorite “Fair Memory,” after you read on…
I won’t reprint the entire post from my CrankyOldGuy.com blog But, I think some selected passages and a few pics from a REAL county fair, are necessary…
The following is an excerpt from the full article (which also included some political observations that aren’t included here).
There is an allure to small town life that is irrefutable. Even the most “hip, sophisticated, urbanite” is drawn to Normal Rockwell’s portrayals of small town life. The pace of life, the constant bombardment of noise and outside stimulus changes people fundamentally. If you doubt me, simply drive across the country and feel the difference between an Interstate Highway and one of the smaller US State highways. As you get closer to the cities, the number of assclowns on the road increases exponentially by the mile, and you are suddenly thrust into a battle for yards, feet and inches…that defies reason.
The events of the past week (The Dallas Police Officer Shooting…only one of tons that have happened since…flaming 2nd ammendment debates nationwide) have made me appreciate small town life in ways that I could never have imagined, and sadly, reminded me of the great chasm that exists today in ideology and ways of life.
Welcome to the paradox that is small town America in the 21st century.
After sitting in a freeway parking lot for almost an hour, when we got a chance to pull off and take an alternate route to our destination of Greensville, Indiana, we were almost instantly rewarded with visions of expansive, beautiful farm fields, tree-lined lanes, and small, bucolic towns that dotted the two-lane highway that took us North. While it added a half hour to the journey (according to Siri and the Maps App) we knew that with the pileup on the main freeway North, we were likely shaving some actual travel time, while our bodies slipped into “chillaxed travel mode” in our “time capsule.”
There is really no better way to describe how we have come to know our trusted Toyota Highlander at this point. Because every time we exit our vehicle, we are transported to another time and space. When we finally rolled into the outskirts of Greensville, Indiana, we landed squarely in the middle of the 1960s.
The Decatur County Fair was in full swing on the edge of town, and knowing that the radio station client that I had in Greensville was likely broadcasting from the fair, we decided to pull in.
Immediately we noticed the difference between “big city fairs” like the Lane County Fair in Eugene, and this smaller, rural fair in the heartland of the country…no admission price. None. And parking was a mere $2. When was the last time you were able to park at a huge community event for $2? Probably the mid-1060s.
We got there just as the “Fair Parade” was winding through the fair, on its way through the town. Parades in these parts are mostly cars and trucks loaded with cheerleaders, 4H winners, sports teams, and assorted winners of “beauty and talent” contests, including the real, Miss Decatur County. There was also a flatbed trailer loaded with the staff of my radio station clients, who were all waving excitedly and throwing gobs of candy. The final part of the parade, right before the “pooper scooper carts” was a section of the parade loaded with current and hopeful politicians of every make and model from County Commissioners, to a standing State Senator, and even…wait for it…a POTENTIAL VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE and standing state governor. More on that later.
There was one High School band, tooting and drumming earnestly, the number of dancers and majorettes far outnumbering the number of players in the band. But it is Summer, and the allure of dressing up in spangles and tassels over heavy, uniforms with wool hats, in 85 degree heat, is probably an easy one.
It was amazingly simple, sweet, and at times hilarious experience. The hilarious part came from a guy who could have been pulled from Central Casting in Hollywood to play “Howard Sprague” in Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show. He stood at the edge of the fair, in his Sunday Farmer Best, tall, lanky, gray and slightly stooped, a perfectly trimmed mid-west mustache over a set of huge white teeth…the “Heckler” did his job. As every single local politician drove slowly by, he screamed out some personal insult in a deep, booming baritone voice that kept the entire crowd (most likely, long suffering family members) wincing in apologetic grimaces.
It took me a while to get close enough to understand what he was saying…but mostly, it was the tone, and the way he waved a boney, crooked finger as he bellowed. “So…you ain’t at the front now, are you Bill?” was one taunt. “You better get things straightened up” was another…and “You trying to win again?” directed at what must have been a perpetual loser of local elections.
Everyone seemed to know him. Except for the State Senator…and the Governor, also known as Trump’s presumptive VP, Mike Pence, who both stared at him with that kind of painted on, toothy grin that seem to come with becoming a long-standing political celebrity. Several people came up to shake the old guy’s hand and clap him on the back…his job apparently completed with valor.
The rest of the evening was spent at the fair…just soaking it all in.
The Tractor Pull was a tad bit loud and polluting. But, a crowd favorite. For the uninitiated, contestants were clocked in how fast they could pull a huge weight with their tractors. Fastest time up the “track” wins.
Miss Decatur even got into the action in the Hot Dog Eating Contest. She ate one…in two minutes…trying to watch her figure, no doubt.
The winners were these guys who powered down six in two minutes with Deb chanting, “don’t choke…don’t choke…don’t choke!”
Is a traditional small town county fair corny? Ask Deb. The $2 ears of sweet corn were her favorite treat. I am more of an elephant ear, or Funnel-Cake kinda guy.
I get the allure of small town life. I have never felt so relaxed, and in control of the stuff that matters, without the fear of being run off of the road by a semi on the freeway. But there is a trade-off. You have to smile, and nod politely…and then destroy some people’s perceptions of reality. You have to tell them that the world is passing them by, and that they need to get their news from more than one source. And that if they don’t get up to speed, the entire generation of young folks will find them irrelevant and ignore their messages (as I had to do with my radio client, who still didn’t have a Facebook account).
I saw it. And the people talked about it. “The kids are different today, with their phones, and their weird clothes, and their music.” I know. It sounds like our parents in the 1960s. But the evidence was there, that things really had changed. The lack of entrants in the 4-H barns left them almost empty. Kids walked around with faces buried in cell phones, just like their big city counterparts. And there was a clear sense that most of them were dying to “kick the dust off this town” and get out.
But, I hope I am wrong. America needs small towns. These people CHOOSE to be here, and we need them. They grow our food. They prop up our basic values of family, and community in ways that are lost in most cities.
The takeaway here is simple… Small town life, and the isolationism that happens when you are miles away from “progress” has its penalties…and rewards. But the thing that is evident, is that when you take the time to talk, one on one, and listen…change may in fact take place.
So Addicts…When was the last time you went to a county fair? Have you EVER been to one? What were your impressions…your thoughts…your favorite memories?