Welcome to the fair: there’s no place like it

Remember the scene in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when Judy Garland closed her eyes, clacked the heels of her ruby-red slippers, and uttered the most famous words of her career?

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home ...”

As much can be said of the Chenango County Fair. No matter where you get your kicks during the dog days of summer, I find that there’s no place quite like the county fair.

True, big amusement parks offer a viable alternative. But like Oz, the glitz and glamour of an amusement park is misleading. They always look better from a distance, then once you’re inside, you face a different animal entirely. When I ponder it, the parallels between Oz and Disney World are uncanny. Both are filled with that child-like sense of wonderment, “munchkins,” and mystical talking creatures. Minus the roller coasters, souvenir shops, and Dip-n-Dot Ice Cream stands, the two are practically one in the same.

So what is it about the county fair that I find so appealing? It’s not the customary Chenango County Fair attractions. I’m sorry to say that horse racing, tractor pulls, cattle shows, and country music don’t really grab my attention. Demolition derbies can be fun (who doesn’t enjoy watching someone willingly drive a car into a jumble of twisted steel and leaking gasoline?) But on the other hand, I don’t really care who wins a derby - assuming there is such a thing as a “winner” - so the outcome is irrelevant.

The midway isn’t really my place either. I’m not much of a ride kind of guy, and even less of a waiting-in-line guy. And when it comes to the midway games ... well, there’s no use in fighting a battle that simply can’t be won. When it comes down to it, the fair midway to me is nothing more than a place to blow through $20 in under an hour with nothing more to show for it but a vomit stained t-shirt and dumb, inflatable Scooby-Doo (which is great for teasing the family cat, but can’t be expected to last long).

All this isn’t to say I don’t have my own fond memories of the county fair that I have collected through my childhood. To any kid, the fair is like the land of Canaan ... the Promised Land. Even the midway with all its less-than-mystical glory had an ambiguous charm. I found the rides were more exciting, the exhibits more attractive, and the events more entertaining.

So the question remains, what is it I like about the fair now? If not the exhibits or information booths, the rides or the games, the shows or the competitions, then why do I even go? Quite honestly, I like the fair because I like watching others have fun. I know there are people who enjoy the things I don’t. To each his own, I guess. Truth is, I like hearing the sounds - the clatter of each ride, the laughter, the screaming, and that general sense of excitement I see in others.

Then of course, there’s the food. What good is a discussion about the fair without mentioning the food? Whether it’s garden vegetables, ice cream, or anything in between, things taste better when they’re battered, deep fried, covered in cheese, and put on a stick. That alone is reason enough to go.

All in all, the county fair might not be the kind of place I would choose to spend my dying days, but there’s still that lingering notion ... there’s no place like home.

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