Holy Everything: 'Here comes the sun' on a fair day
With the Minnesota State Fair still weeks away, I was forced to head south in search of food on a stick. Destination: the Iowa State Fair .
I've only been to the fair a few times and not since childhood. Growing up, I'd stay up late to watch the nightly fair highlights with my mom on Iowa Public Television. My usual priority was getting eight hours of sleep, but I'd make an exception for fair highlight week. My favorite part was watching clips from the Bill Riley Talent Search and the fair queen competition.
But enough of memory lane; it was time to move past the highlight reel and get on down to the fair. I've heard the anticipation of an enjoyable activity equates to a surprisingly large portion of the total enjoyment. In the case of the state fair, both the anticipation and the experience were exceptional. The pre-excitement started a while ago: Advance tickets were purchased, and then I prepared my beloved clipboard with all the most important documents (site map, parking map, "favorites" list and a schedule of events). Fast forward a few weeks and add in a couple hours on Interstate 35 … and presto: The moment arrived!
My sweetheart, Justin, and I found a yard to park in near the fairgrounds and hiked over to the entrance gate. He's a fellow Iowa native, which made him a perfect co-adventurer for the day. He's also one of the very few people on the planet who doesn't seem to mind having a girlfriend who carries a clipboard for personal enjoyment.
Justin was an FFA member in high school and spent several summers working shows at the grandstand and living in the on-site dormitory. Though the layout of the grounds has expanded a bit since then, he definitely remembered his way around with ease. We went from building to building. As we walked through one of the barns, we got a special behind-the-scenes glimpse of the teenage girls getting ready to ride their horses for the Cowgirl Queen Contest. The woodworking and photography displays were highlights, but each stop along the way offered its own flair (and people-watching).
The best moment of all came at the end of the day. We found our way over to Pioneer Hall. The Midway volume had increased vastly by that point, as had the number of fairgoers, and I was getting a little overwhelmed. At Pioneer Hall, there were antiques to peruse, and R.B.J. was playing hits from the 1950s and '60s. After admiring the items inside, we stepped back into the summer evening. There was a big, old house just steps away called the Ralph H. Deets Historical Museum . Neither of us had ever noticed it before. It was closing time there, and the lights were switching off as we walked closer.
"Oh, darn," I said. "We just missed it. But maybe we could just sit down anyway." Lovely wooden rockers lined the wrap-around porch. We plopped down to rest a while. Glancing across the way through the open barn door, we realized we had a perfect view of the stage inside Pioneer Hall. It felt like R.B.J. was playing us a private concert as they harmonized to "Here Comes the Sun." The rest of the fair noise felt distant. Rocking back and forth on the porch, the lyrics of the song felt truer than ever, "Little darling, the smile's returning to the faces, little darling, it seems like years since it's been here. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it's alright."
"This has been a great summer," I reflected. "And this is a really great fair."