I took our two small children to the Wayne County Fair last week. The county fair always feels like going home. Except we don’t keep our fat rabbits in cages; ours apparently like to set up camp in the garden.
When I was in 4-H, a week at the fair was spent exhibiting our livestock and drinking approximately ten Mt. Dews a day from a cooler which we packed from home. We only knew there was a carnival side to the event because we could see the bright lights as we left every night; I always thought the place was on fire. But nope, we’d return at 5:30 the next morning to find everything intact. Very confusing for a 10-year-old. We always stayed in the cattle barn and tended to our stock.
With this in mind, it becomes fuzzy about how I got to this stage of parenting.
We arrived at the fair Monday evening to watch the hog show and the first thing I fed my children was chocolate ice cream from the Dairy Bar. That was never my intention as I walked into the situation, but I saw someone I knew, we began visiting, and the next thing you know I’m at the window and Caroline requests a chocolate cone. At this point, I’ve lost all sense of my surroundings and I hand over a sweaty dollar bill.
Seven minutes later, Caroline is handing me a soggy cone, Cyrus is crying because he is eating a veggie straw, realizing he is the obvious second child and I’m trying to get chocolate ice cream that I didn’t even consume out of my white t-shirt.
That’s right.
I wore a white t-shirt to the county fair, which is a sure sign that I’ve lost all ability to think critically in the last three years. Everyone knows that the only justifiable reason to wear white to the county fair is if you have a Holstein heifer at the end of a halter.
Moments later, Caroline spotted the camel in a small pen over near the antique tractors. We were there to watch the hogs; camels weren’t even on my radar. But there we went, over to the camel pen. Moments later I found myself on the said camel, with Caroline sitting in front of me, waving like she was a queen riding through the desert. I must say, she is a real natural at camel riding. Let us hope this is not indicative of a future with the circus.
I’ve played many roles throughout the years at the county fair, including first-year exhibitor who cried in the show ring, fair queen, post-4-H-age-show-ring-poop-scooper and Wayne County Cattleman’s ribeye booth order taker. I had no idea I’d eventually become a camel riding mother who broke her last five-dollar bill to saddle up on a single hump.
From somewhere in the distance Tim McGraw’s song, “Something Like That” began playing. This song is about a guy who goes to the county fair, falls in love and eventually gets a barbeque stain on his white t-shirt. Bump…Bump…Bump…Bump. While still riding the camel and wondering if my hips were now disjointed, I thought back to when that song came out on KICKS 96. I was a freshman in high school and didn’t have a care in the world. I sure didn’t know then that I’d hear it again twenty years later ironically at the county fair, wearing a white t-shirt with chocolate ice cream down the front. Motherhood is so humbling.
We dismounted the camel and Caroline was quite happy, so that made the shaggy, shedding camel hair stuck to the inside of my legs almost worth it. She asked for another ice cream cone, but I told her I wasn’t falling for that trick again. She wasn’t having anymore ice cream until she got something healthy in her belly, like a Sugar Grove Church lemonade shake-up. She obliged.
By the end of fair week, we’d had our share of ice cream, lemonade shake-ups, walking tacos, tenderloins, ribeyes, French fries, camels, and even Ferris wheels. In (another) moment of weakness I said yes to a single ride on the Ferris wheel, despite being absolutely terrified of heights. Caroline was only tall enough to board the ride because of the extra three inches her giant hair bow added. Safety first!
I think we spent more money on fun displays as a visiting family this year than we ever did growing up as 4-H exhibitors. I look forward to the days when we have livestock at the county fair and I can instruct my children to not leave the show box unless they need to go the restroom, and if they’re hungry or thirsty they can eat what I packed in the cooler.
Ahhh, the good old days in the 1990’s when the county fair didn’t rob me of all my cash or leave camel hair in my dryer vent.

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