For 6 of the last 7 years, I have lived within walking distance of the fairgrounds here in Union county. The last three years I've been able to watch them set up the rides from my front yard - it's literally just across the street. As the mother of five, the fair coming in the Fall is something I always look forward to. I get that twinge of excitement, and a twang of nostalgia. . . There's something in the air at the fair, the smells and sounds and lights - there's a certain freedom, a return to childhood, and a sort of celebratory last fling before winter sets in.
I admit I'm a kid at heart, I love going down the big slide and getting super sticky from cotton candy and caramel apples. I will admit to having sunk $40-$50 trying to get that damned BIG teddy bear by throwing the darts at underfull balloons. I get a new goldfish every Autumn at the ring toss and eat hot dogs with chili and onions and don't worry so much about chili stains or heartburn.
Oh sure I gripe about the pushy carneys that run the games, and I complain about the prices being outrageous. I've even been known to bitch a bit when my feet get cold after the dew settles and my shoes start to get wet. But damn it, I LOVE the Union County Fair. I love the atmosphere and the way you can watch the kids light up - they all but vibrate with anticipation at the idea of going, and I can't help but live vicariously through them and re-experience that thrill.
Tonight I was told that there will be no county fair this year because the fairgrounds are unavailable.
Now let me explain... Nelda Williams owns the fairgrounds, and her husband was killed several years ago by a truck as he crossed the street from his house to the construction company they owned. At that point, there began to be rumors that Nelda wouldn't be hosting the fair anymore, that she intended to sell off the land. We worried, but the fair came that year... and the next year... and the next... Even though we did see some parceling out of the property, we began to believe that the rumors were just that, untrue lip-flapping from the neighbors. It's literally been years, and we stopped even considering it as a possibility. The fair has been at that spot for generations, it was just unbelievable that it could be cancelled or even moved to a different spot.
I can only assume that the years have made hosting the fair just too much of a chore for Miss Nelda, or that the selling off of property finally left the remaining free space dwindle till it simply isn't large enough. I don't suppose I can hold it against Nelda, she's a wonderful lady, has always been the first to say yes when my kids come knocking on the door with school fundraiser packets or whatever. My mother took my kids fishing at her pond for many summers (you'd just drive up leave a dollar under the doormat on the porch, and "leave the place as you found it.") She's a pillar of our community, and offers all sorts of support to the city of Monroe, the county, and the various charities here.
But still, I'm heart broken at the idea that there won't be a fair this year. There's just something wrong with that, something undeniably sad.