As the weather cools down in the piedmont of North Carolina, I begin anticipating the Dixie Classic Fair. I love the crisp air, clear skies, the smell of funnel cakes and grilled sausage, the sound of barkers offering to guess my weight and age, the reminders of the important things in life. Even in the midst of large crowds, I feel as though I can slow down and take it all in. All of this makes me feel like a kid again.
It takes a little effort to achieve the “feeling like a kid” state. I always forget that they charge you to park, before you even pay the entrance fee. So right through the gate I’ve dropped $44, and we haven’t even had a snow cone. (“Chill out, Dad, it’s always worth it.”) Then the sounds, smells, and sights draw me in. My wallet and my spirits are lighter.
We cruise through the alleys of fine cuisine, making mental notes of the best spots for dinner. I lament my limited capacity for food consumption. I couldn’t possibly eat everything that looks good. For this my wallet is grateful. We strategize about which delicacies and treats to purchase and share. I’m always amazed at the latest fried food and hamburgers made with donuts. We plan our return for meals and snacks.
We also look at the show times. We can’t miss the hypnotist. A few years ago we felt the suggestion that we would always return to his show. Don’t snap your fingers or we might miss it.
We find the starting times for Swifty Swine, the piglet races. There is something exhilarating about watching these little porkers race for an Oreo. On another stage, a young performer tricks us with his “Agricadabra” illusions straight from the farm.
If we time it right, we can catch the border collies rounding up the sheep.
The exhibit halls show the best goats, chickens, biscuits, flowers, cows, rabbits, pumpkins, and gourds in the region. We make it a point to ride the Ferris wheel at twilight and view downtown Winston-Salem to the south and Wake Forest University to the north. We might also ride the swings or the carousel.
One year they had a real army tank and they were letting people get inside. I have always wanted to climb inside a tank. Really. It’s one of my childhood fantasies. Finally I had the chance to do it. We got there and there was a small line, so we decided to come back. When we came back the tank was there, but, alas, they had closed it down for the day. Maybe this year I’ll get to go inside!
This year is a little different for my family. I wasn’t sure that my daughter, who is in college, would be able to join us for the occasion, but today she assured me that she wouldn’t miss it. Yes! I may have to drive a couple of hours to get her, but we will all be going together. One year, only she and I made it to the fair. Her baby sister was only three weeks old and probably wouldn’t have appreciated the festivities. That was sixteen years ago.
This year that sixteen-year-old is placing entries in the photo competition. She has been planning for months to submit her prime shots to the judges. In years past, we have missed the deadlines, but not this year. She carefully searched through hundreds of her photographs to find two examples of her photographic prowess. She found all the requirements for submission, and tomorrow we will hand-deliver the masterpieces. I can’t wait to see the ribbons hanging from her work!
This year I need to pay more attention to the agricultural displays. Having inherited responsibility for managing my family’s farm, I will need to have a clue. Right now we grow trees and a few field crops. Maybe I’ll find some inspiration at the fair and we can start something new—maybe herds of emus or grass-fed cows, or fields of sunflowers or woods full of mushrooms. I’ll be taking notes.
Sometimes I wish I had been born before the industrial revolution. At the fair, I can imagine life in the old days. Maybe on my farm I can live them.