I remember when I was a kid and mom and dad would pile me and my siblings into the station wagon and drive us up to Norwich for a fun-filled day at the Chenango County Fair and ...
Who am I kidding? I never went to the fair as a kid. (Cue the violins, please).
No, save for the occasional trip to the Big N (dating myself here) as an Oxford boy, my trips to Norwich were few and far between Ė and never included the Chenango County Fair until I was a junior in high school.
Thatís when I joined the Oxford Blackhawks Marching Band (Iíll spare you the progression of my musical genius), and one our biggest events of the summer was to march in the fairís Firemenís Parade.
Again, dating myself, thatís also back when the Firemenís Parade had marching bands in it. And no, one marching band from Laurens (not even in Chenango County, but thanks for coming!) doesnít count. Itís also back when the firemen were largely, and visibly, drunk Ė but thatís a whole other column.
My first forays to the Chenango County Fair back then were much like any other teenagerís, I suppose -- chasing each other around the fairgrounds, eating our own weight in junk food and testing our equilibrium on midway rides that had been in pieces on a flatbed only hours before.
It wasnít until my later years, of course, that I began to appreciate the Chenango County Fair for what it truly is. Now I wrote in an editorial earlier this week that the true purpose of the county fair is to focus on agriculture, which it is, but for me personally what the fair is all about is, well ... Chenango County.
The fair gloriously represents a cross-section of Chenango County life Ė the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly. Now before you call Ď30 Secondsí accusing me of biting the hand that feeds me, admit it: weíve all made fun of the skeevier aspects of this weekís annual event. For the sake of propriety Iíll not list them here, but he among you who is without a county fair joke can cast the first corndog. We jest because we love.
Sure the fairís a little dirty and smelly in places, but really, would we have it any other way? The sights, sounds and smells of the midway and the adjacent livestock barns are what gives the fair its charm. The fair is a perfect reflection of what Chenango County is all about Ė our strong rural heritage, pride in community, fellowship of friends and neighbors, love for all things deep-fried and willingness to spend a weekís paycheck on a cheap thrill.
Thatís why we make such a big deal of the fair on the front page of The Evening Sun all week Ė because its one of the few things that unites us as a community. Not only does fair week represent the tireless efforts of countless organizers and volunteers, it also represents the very best Chenango County has to offer, artistically, agriculturally and perhaps most important, humanly.
Congratulations, Chenango County Fair, on your 161st year. Hereís looking forward to many more.