by Pettus Read
With fair-time upon us, I really enjoy the special excitement of a county fair. A few years back, I expressed my feelings about how much fair season and this time of the year means to me. I wish to repeat those expressions and hope you will indulge me for a few minutes of your reading time to quote those expressions again. Growing up on a farm allowed me the advantage of experiencing life in somewhat of a simpler manner than those who have spent their days living out life's early adventures in a somewhat more complex arena. Not to be one who would make discerning remarks about city life, but I do feel that my country life did and still does have its advantages.
For example, I never had to worry about catching a bus to go downtown, because there was no downtown in Versailles. There was only Ruth's small country store and the only bus that existed was my father's school bus which he drove for the local school system. We only made trips to the city limits on Saturdays, every now and then, to purchase tractor parts and groceries we could not produce on our own land. The peddler stopped by every week in his old bus converted into a rolling store, which also saved us the fifteen miles "into town" on Saturdays.
We spent the summer working in the fields and doing all of the things you associate with a Tennessee dairy farm. When not hauling hay, chopping out Johnson grass, and performing other farm chores, we spent those warm months preparing our dairy cattle for the events that climaxed summer. Of course, every farm kid knows that the events I am talking about are the annual pilgrimages to the county and Tennessee State Fairs.
Webster defines the word fair as "an exhibition, often competitive, of farm, household, and manufactured products, usually with various amusement facilities and educational displays." I would define it as "a great place for a kid to be a kid and an adult to be one also."
We would take our dairy cattle to compete for ribbons and prize money. This required spending several nights in the barns with the cows, but it also meant spending many enjoyable days with friends from around the farming community who had the same "fair fever" you can experience in late summer and early fall.
When not working with or showing our livestock, the farm kids would hit the fairgrounds to enjoy a time of fun. The smell of cotton candy, carmel apples, and sawdust seem to be an aroma that you never forget once you experience it.
The sounds of fairs are also unforgettable. To hear the call of the midway barker looking for his next victim is something that will be engraved in your memory. You will also have the sound of the bell ringing from the sledge hammer hitting its target at the strongman game. With each swing, by the boyfriend trying to impress his girlfriend, the bell provides an ever-continuing background noise to the happy music of the merry-go-round as young and old alike ride to its continuous up and down beat.
Fairs for years have been the showplace for the latest in new farm technology. Kids have enjoyed climbing on new tractors and pretending they were tilling the fields for next year's crops. I can remember climbing into the driver's seat of a brand new John Deere and wishing to someday drive one of those machines across our fields, rather than the "red belly" Ford we would have to keep for several seasons.
It was fun to go through exhibits of flowers grown by ladies to win the purple ribbon, to see rows of canned goods in shades of every color of the rainbow, to smell the aroma of the baked goods up for competition, and to enjoy the atmosphere of everyone sharing in the excitement of the fair.
Today, I only have the chance to visit our fairs as a visitor rather than an exhibitor. However, whenever I open that car door, and experience the sounds from the midway, the smell of cotton candy, and the view of cattle in the show ring, the little kid in me returns and "fair fever" infects me all over again.
If you have missed the experience of "fair fever" I would suggest you catch it real soon. County fair season is now upon us. Try to make plans to be there this year. The Tennessee State Fair in Nashville is September 9 - 18, Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville is also the same date, the Mid-South Fair in Memphis is September 23 - October 2, and the little kid in you wants to go.