It’s that time of year again — that time when you feel the crisp fall air, hear the sounds of game booth alarm bells, laughter (and terrified screams) and smell popcorn, turkey legs and … animals in the barn.
Yes, it’s the state fair — and one of my favorite places to go.
That last smell isn’t always so pleasant, but hey, even in Southwest Georgia, not all of us get to see these types of animals every day. So, sometimes it’s worth a careful walk through the barn to see them up close and personal.
When I was a child, I loved going to the fair — but only for the rides. My mother, however, was much more interested in the exhibits of quilts, antiques, photographs and other displays. In my mind’s eye, there were far too many of those to see. Still, I tagged along (I had no other choice) and probably annoyed her incessantly by asking how much longer it would be until we got to do “the fun stuff.”
Eventually, I always whittled her down and our family spent the rest of the night getting tossed and turned around on the fairway rides.
I’ve grown up a bit since then, and my interests have changed. Oh, I still love a good roller coaster (even if they do tend to make my head hurt more than they used to), but now, I’m the one entering photographs and needlework for the judges’ inspection.
I like to think of myself as a modern girl, but I love the old-fashioned, homey feel of a fairground and its exhibits. I love to enter their contests and for me, it is actually for the fun of it. Don’t get me wrong; I would love to win a blue ribbon for my peach jam, but I’m a young cook and I understand that I’m probably going to have to pay my dues before I can compete in the big leagues with those who have been doing this a lot longer than I have.
So, even though my (always supportive) mother thought it was a waste of my time, I dutifully ignored her as only a daughter can and made the trek to Perry to submit this year’s entries of jams and canned goods; now, it’s all up to the judges.
I can spend hours just walking through the exhibition buildings, trying to absorb everything — and nowadays, if I make it to the fairway, it’s usually just a short walk through to see the sights.
But I have a feeling things are going to be different this year.
This year, I’ll have a 3-year-old toddler with me — a very active and outgoing little girl who I imagine will be much more interested in the fairway rides than the exhibition booths.
Though this won’t be Caroline’s first journey to the fair, it will be her first trip after she has learned to express her opinions clearly and loudly, coupled with her capacity for independent movement. In my role as her dutiful aunt, eager to train her in the ways of the world (and the ways opposite her mother’s), I’m all for helping her pursue those goals.
If I can pry her out of the arms of (in my opinion) her overly safety-conscious mother, I may introduce her to the world of carnival rides.
Then again, maybe it’s best if my sister just stays away from the fairway this year and lets us do our thing. I have found that Caroline and I have more freedom when we are left to our own devices. Although, I still usually get stuck answering calls from my sister every five minutes as she “checks in,” so I don’t actually get that much peace. I’ve threatened to quit answering my phone more than once and have trained Caroline to say, “Bye, Mommy!” on command.
Can you tell my sister and I see life differently? Don’t get me wrong, I love her and wouldn’t want to go through life without her, but I just think the world would be a better place if she listened to me more often.
However, I’m nothing if not tenacious, and persuasive in teaching Caroline to follow in my footsteps. With Grandma advocating for us, I think we’ll make it to the fairway — after I look for my blue ribbons, of course.
Maybe that’s one reason I love the fair so much — no matter how old I get, the fair is something that stays consistent. At the same time, it always offers new things to see, and as I grow and change through life, it adapts with me.
This year, a new generation will act as the voice in our family complaining about walking through the exhibits and asking when we’re going to go to the rides. As the next-youngest member of the crew, I’ll probably be nominated to go on a lot of those rides with her. But that’s okay — now that I’m an adult, and dealing with everything that entails, I’ll welcome anything that makes me feel like a kid again.
Email Albany Herald writer Laura Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.