Too long at the fair …

My kids and I look forward to and enjoy the sounds, crowds of people, bright lights and variety of a fair. I insist that the kids eat a meal before we go so I don’t have to buy every treat in sight. My plans never do work out right. And, I guess, what is a fair or carnival without cotton candy, snowcones, popcorn, huge pickles or barbecue sandwiches? You don’t have such things every day.

Fairs are extraordinary. That is what makes them so special. You don’t hear those particular sounds, say, at a basketball tournament. Sports have their own smells, sounds, tastes and atmospheres. Agreed, the smell of a pen-of-three or a 4-H animal show may not be what you dream of all year, but memories are often rekindled through a sense, such as smell. Hopefully, all memories of fairs are good ones (despite the half-forgotten aroma). Special moments should be, well, special.

The crowds are original at fairs. The barkers attempting to call you over to throw balls at a dunk tank target, the mooing from a cattle pen, the excited pleas of children who want to see it all, the crowd cheering on a peddle tractor pull second placer. The feel is original: walking on dirt or blacktop rather than wood or carpet, the sticky clinging of cotton candy, the hot day sweat that everyone’s shirts confess to, the feel of your child’s hand pulling you toward one more wonder, the feel of your wife holding your hand in public.

But, there is a danger. The extraordinary cannot be dwelled upon to the point that it becomes too common or too well known. Yes, I love a thick, juicy, medium-rare steak, but not every meal. Up-beat carnival music or street dance music would grow old after a few uninterrupted months. Cotton candy stickiness can become annoying. I am sure the long-time operators of a fair have to accept the wonder in the eyes of the spectators, rather than their own. Some sights should not be seen or else the romance and allure are gone; such as seeing a favorite pool hall or dance hall with all the lights turned up full. If this is not so, why is a candlelight dinner different than a picnic?

Decades ago, a young person’s dream may have been to run away to be in a circus or travel with a carnival. I still seek the extraordinary. The only difference is, if I find it, I let go so I can find it again. I don’t want fairs to become commonplace. The wonder in my kids eyes should not ever fade over time. A carnival barker should always have to be resisted, rather than easily ignored. The smell of 4-H animals should revitalize half-forgotten days of old. Riding the mechanical bull should be a challenge for next year, rather than simple exercise. Your wife’s hand wrapped in yours while walking by the food vendors and air castles should be a new sensation every time. I pray my kids’ lives are filled with fairs, but with times in between to keep them special.

Fairs and other wondrous times are great, as long as you never sadly question, “Have I stayed too long at the fair?”