We all remember the infamous scene in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ when Judy Garland spoke one of the most famous lines of her longstanding career, when she clapped the heels of her ruby red sippers together, closed her eyes and said, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home...”
I find the same is true of the Chenango County Fair. No matter where you go for your thrills over the summer, nothing quite suits an appetite for fun like the county fair. Sure, there are the big amusement parks, but like Oz, they’re always prettier from a distance. Once you get inside, it’s a whole different story and never as pleasant. Oz itself draws more parallels to the amusement parks than most might recognize (the attraction of it from a far off view, fantasy creatures, “munchkins” running around; really, the only thing amusement parks have that Oz lacked are souvenir shops and a Dip-n-Dots Ice Cream stand). Yet, regardless of the appeal and all the glitz and glamor of the typical amusement parks, nothing beats the hometown fair.
So what is it about the fair that’s so appealing? I guess it depends on who you ask. Personally, I’m not a fan of the customary Chenango County fair attractions, the tractor pulls, the farm machinery, the demolition derbies, country music (even the real Garth Brooks), or the “games of chance” (which isn’t really what I would call them) but I do love watching other people enjoy themselves at the fair. I like the noise, the sounds of the rides, the screaming, laughing, excitement – the overall scene of people just having fun. As for my favorite part? Well, nothing beats the facial expressions of someone on a fast-paced ride – you know, that one-of-a-kind look of glee, mixed with a little fear and a lot of disorientation, nausea, and all topped off with slight regret.
That’s not to say I don’t have my own memories of enjoying the fair as a child. After all, I was a typical kid. Really, I envy children at the fair because through the eyes of a kid, the fair is the land of Canaan, the Promised Land; and the midway isn’t just a place where you can blow through $20 with nothing to show for it but a dumb inflatable Scooby-Doo (which was great for teasing the cat, but it didn’t last long). The midway is euphoric. It’s a brightly lit haven where kids beg their parents for money to win that Scooby-Doo (in hindsight, the fair must be where I learned that spending sprees are much more fun when it’s not my money I’m losing).
Then there are the rides, which again, are a totally different beast through a child’s eyes. Sure, a kid could choose to play it safe with the spinning strawberries, bumper cars or giant slides, but all was sissy stuff compared to the big kid rides (the Ring of Fire comes to mind).
And of course, what good would is a discussion about the fair without mentioning the food? Fair food is by far the best. I’m convinced that there should be a diner someplace in Chenango County that serves fair food 24/7 but until then, it’s worth paying admission just to buy a funnel cake topped with three pounds of powdered sugar, and a $5 cup of lemonade – just enough to trigger that pesky adult-onset diabetes. Not to mention, everything from garden vegetables to ice cream tastes better when it’s battered, deep-fried, covered in cheddar and put on a stick (deep-fry a lawn chair and put it on a stick, I’ll take a crack at it).
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