Friday, October 19, 2012

More than Fair

August 23, 2012

This week I will officially visit the Madison County Fair for the first time ever. Now, I have already been once this week but just to take some pictures. There weren't any rides running or a crowd or anything, so I'm not counting that as an official visit. Therefor, I just don't know all that much about the Madison County Fair and that's a good reason to be excited.

William "Hootie" Kirkland and Charles "Buster" Johnson work on the Rock-O-Plane ride in preparation for opening night.

I've always enjoyed fairs. Growing up I was a regular attendee of the annual fair in Little Rock and, more than any other, the Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair in Fort Smith. I've been to others in other states, but they all pretty much made the same impression on me. Namely, I grew to love foot-long corn dogs.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the Tilt-a-whirl and the Gravatron. I loved the Sea Dragon and the Spinner, but I've grown out of some of those over the years. Yet, I still enjoy a good foot-long corn dog. Not to mention, I'm willing to bet most people are familiar with the rides I just named, but quite possibly by a different name. From fair to fair and carnival to carnival (there is a difference I'll explain farther down), the exact same ride will go by a different name. So, if your buddy went to the fair the day before and you ask if they have the Sea Dragon this year, his answer isn't really all that helpful. He may tell you no when the ride is actually there but going by a different title. If you ask if they have foot-long corn dogs, there's a pretty good chance you're going to get a definitive answer...and that answer will probably be "yes."

I've been to fairs when the summer heat was still a bit unbearable, and I've been when the trip required a light jacket - but fairs always remind me of fall. The smells of the food, the screams of the ride goers in the distance and - yes - even the smell of the livestock. It all just seems to ring in the change of the season for me. The Madison County Fair comes a tad early to be getting too excited for the upcoming fall, but that won't matter while I'm there. I'll still be thinking about it.

All that to say, I really like a good fair and in tribute to that - here are a few interesting things about fairs.

  • Fairs and carnivals are not the same. In fact, fairs are better. Carnivals, according to Merriam-Webster, are a traveling enterprise offering amusement. A fair offers much of the same but adds the exhibition of farm equipment, livestock and often agriculturally themed competition.
  • The first Ferris Wheel was built by George W. Ferris, Jr. for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It was used several times in several locations before being demolished in 1906.
  • The first corn dog seems to have appeared in the early 20th century, but the inventor is highly disputed by corn dog aficionados. No word on corn dogs of the foot-long variety.
  • According to long time Madison County Fair organizer Barbara Parker, this year has one of the biggest showings of livestock she's seen at the fair in 19 years of being involved with it.
  • The fair only lasts until Saturday, so if you haven't gotten a chance to go - there's no time like the present to correct that. I'll be there tonight, so if you recognize me - please stop and talk. I'll be the guy holding a recorder and talking to folks...there's also a pretty good chance I'll be holding a half eaten foot-long corn dog.

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