For the last ten days, I have had the privilege of working for the local fair. There wasn’t a moment that passed or task that I took care of that didn’t bring joy and smiles to my day. I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s in my blood. My maternal grandfather (the Bohemian) was a carnie at one point in his life. He was operating the double ferris wheel at the local fair, and that is where he met my grandmother. She joined the carnival and left town with him, and they were married two weeks later; it was the height of the Great Depression, 1934. I don’t know how long they worked the carnival together, but they were settled down in Detroit, Michigan three years later when my mother was born.
I have often attended the fair, but had no idea the amount of work that went on behind the scenes to pull this off for the community. (For clarification, I worked for the fair, not the company that operated the rides and midway.) I began on a Friday; my friend Cyndie, who works for the fair, had contacted me a month prior to see if I would be interested. Since I am working hard to earn the money for my Camino trip, and I love to try a variety of new things and experiences, I quickly said yes. I went in for training, she said it would take a half hour or so. That was at 9:00 am. I left at 5:00 in the afternoon, having had just a glimpse of how hectic and crazy the next nine days would be!
My first task was data entry; as locals brought their crafts, canned goods, art, photos, and garden goodies in for judging, I entered their information into the computer and printed out their tags to attach to their items. Wow, who knew you could can so many things? Entries were limited to 75 per person, with no more than one entry in each category. It was amazing to see how many husbands knitted, sewed, crocheted and canned the exact same things as their wives! (Ahem). My favorite moment from those first couple of days was meeting Tanner. As we peeked through the blinds of our office, we saw a young boy that looked like he was holding a pet. I am a sucker for animals, so of course I had to go out and investigate!
Tanner is an eleven-year-old boy who loves reptiles. He has 22 of them at his house, most of them rescues. He has been working to rescue and rehabilitate snakes, lizards, and all manner of reptilia since he was two. His most recent mission of mercy involves the monitor lizard you see in these photos. Its previous owners abused and burned him (Tanner assures me it is a “he”; I’ll take his word for it). A local reptile center called Tanner to see if he could help. The lizard, as yet unnamed, is one year old, and when full grown will be seven feet in length. Tanner’s mom said that they were warned that the animal would be aggressive, but so far he is very docile. As Tanner held him on the towel (to protect his arms from the sharp claws) and gently petted his cheek, the lizard turned in, put his head on Tanner’s chest, and closed its eyes. I swear if it were a cat, it would have been purring! Tanner is my hero of the day.
I had the opportunity to accompany the mother and daughter team that judged the canned goods, and picked up some tips for future canning endeavors (in my spare time, of course, and in a future time when I actually have a garden). Don’t fill the jars too full, make sure the jars are full enough, don’t use non-canning jars, color and consistency (when applicable) are important. I also assisted the judge in the baked goods category. I had entered two items. When he tried my triple layer chocolate mint hazelnut bars (which were, by all accounts, delicious!), he wrinkled up his nose and said “They’re minty”. (It was just a general bar category, no specific flavor required). I had to bite my tongue and smile sweetly as he awarded them, the only bars in the category, the second place ribbon instead of the first. Twit. My carrot cake with the lemon cream cheese icing gave him the chance to redeem himself, and he did. First place in a two person race! My photos won one red and two white ribbons as well.
Once the fair started, I was able to operate one of the windows where folks made their first stop through the gate to buy their admission to the fair. Only $5, one of the best prices in this area. Still, there were those who tried to game the system. It was sad to see people (albeit a VERY small minority) trying to find a way through any means necessary, from little white lies and misrepresentations to outright whoppers, to avoid paying that $5. I like to have fun, so if it wasn’t too busy and the person at the window looked liked they had a good sense of humor, I told them it was $95 each, or two for $10 to get in. Most folks laughed. There was the two(or ten)-sheets-to-the-wind man who began to pay the $95. I had to push his hand back in his wallet to convince him it was only $5; then there was the other extreme as I had one man turn and bolt back out the gate. His wife had to call him back, and assure him I was kidding. Oops. But, other than that, lots and lots of fun!
I had the opportunity to walk the midway the last evening, and took advantage of the moment to practice my action photography, as well as photograph the amazing post-storm clouds at dusk.