by Pettus Read
I know it has been a long hot summer, but as nighttime temperatures attempt to fall somewhat and country crickets start to sing a different tune, I begin to get the urge to go to a fair and sample some cotton candy. I hope you will indulge me for a few minutes of your reading time to quote some of my past expressions.
Growing up on a farm allowed me the advantage of experiencing life in a 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 my country life did and still does have its advantages.
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 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 not only 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."
When not working with or showing our livestock, the farm kids would hit the fairgrounds or midway to enjoy a time of fun. The smell of cotton candy, caramel 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 sledgehammer 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 showplaces 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.
There has been a lot of talk during the winter months about the Tennessee State Fair being a thing of the past, but not this year. The fair has been revived by the Tennessee State Fair Association (a non-profit organization) that has made plans for the Fair to be much as it has been in years gone by. The Tennessee State Fair is 104 years old and this year it is going to get an opportunity for a brand new start. This year Davidson County's local government is not sponsoring it as it has been in the past. For the first time ever the Tennessee State Fair is being run by a public/private partnership made up of organizations and individuals with the purpose of maintaining a state fair that can be around for other generations to enjoy. This partnership is dedicated to preserving and sharing with generations to come the longstanding and meaningful purposes of the traditional agricultural fair.
Make your plans to go to the state fair this year, September 10-19, and see technology combined with nostalgia. Some things are hard to do away with and being one who has been a fair "goer" since he could walk, I like the theme this year of "Long Live The Fair."
If you have missed the experience of "fair fever," I would suggest you catch it real soon. If you would like a list of fairs around the state, go to picktennesseproducts.org and click on Fairs. Try to make plans to be at a fair this year. You know the little kid in you wants to go.