COL Bianchi -- The old county fair is still what it used to be
There are some things that become a part of your life, a part of you. If you've been an avid motorcyclist, just the sound of one going by will stir up memories, no matter your age.
A trapeze artist can't go by a circus without checking it out or a ballplayer flip the television channels without stopping for a moment to see who's playing.
And so it is with fairgoers. Though no longer actively involved, summer wouldn't end until we had visited one, and usually several, fairs. Highest on our priority list is naturally our own Nicollet County Fair. Considered small by many, it has a lot going for it.
What began as a tragedy several summers ago when a massive tornado leveled most of the buildings ended with the construction of replacements and beautification of the grounds.
Exhibits have never been displayed as nicely as they are now.
Not able to attend any other evening, we chose opening day for our annual visit. And it truly brought back memories. When we arrived there were still 4-Hers in line, waiting to have their projects judged. The looks on their faces is indescribable.
Bewilderment, anxiety, happiness, sadness, pride. Wondering which line to stand in, anxious to hear the judge's comments, happy if they received a blue ribbon, sad if the color of ribbon was below their expectations; and in most cases, a look of pride could be seen.
And, standing in the shadows and trying to eavesdrop on comments made by the judges, were tired parents, parents whose faces had all of the above signs on them, plus one more -- RELIEF.
Thank goodness entry day had finally arrived. Thank goodness the house could now be cleaned up and the shop outside again have room for dad's projects.
Maybe now the little cooks would quietly disappear from the kitchen for a few months, the sewing machine would cool off, the dry markers and poster paper be packed away. And maybe, just maybe, their homes would have some normality once again. It had been a long trip to the fair, but a fun ride getting there.
A stroll through the animal barns told an entirely different story. No relief here yet! Trucks and trailers were still arriving, each being carefully unloaded with prized animals.
Families were still busy bedding in, putting up displays and signs, washing and scrubbing in an attempt to get their critters settled in what was to be their home for the next several days.
Yet you can be sure that come judging day these same animals would be in their Sunday best.
Yes, there are a lot of things about fairs that I hope will never change. Things to see, booths to stop at, people to visit. Everyone is welcome.
And where else can you find funnel cakes, corn dogs, real dairy malts, rib sandwiches, cotton candy, and a host of other goodies all within a couple of blocks?
There were, of course, some changes I couldn't help but notice. Posted signs such as "…; the fair board will not assume any responsibility for any injuries incurred, etc. …"; or "…; due to contagious diseases such as …; if you have been out of the country …; please DO NOT enter any animal barns …"
; Reminders of the times we live in, the changes that have taken place the world over, some not all that welcomed.
But hopefully, the good exceeds the bad. Fairs still promote learning; provide bonding between parents and children; goals to strive for; and good, wholesome family entertainment.