county fair

It was county fair time.

Childhood memories of romantic ferris wheels, heart pounding roller coasters, and twirling tea cups. Loud music, laughter, and the rumble of machinery intertwined into what is the chaotic symphony of the carnival.

The midway filled with impossible games. Oversized stuffed animals swinging in the breeze, beckoning to one and all… Come and win me if you can!

Cotton candy dreams of sugar spun into a fluffy sticky sweet pink swirls. Funnel cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar. Snow cones drizzled with blue or red neon syrup.

Caramel apples.

Aroma of barbecue and corn on the cob wafting across the breeze.

Little sticky hands gripping corn dogs. Food on a stick, what could be easier.

I don’t think county fairs haven’t changed that much in the last twenty years, except that our fair was set in the middle of suburbia and not in the rural countryside

The girls are thrilled that we are going to the San Mateo County Fair, a fun-filled day of new experiences.

First and foremost, Mia wants to know if there is a unicorn section.

We arrived early. Gates just opened and lines already formed.

The girls were surprisingly excited for carnival rides, so we start there.

Mia is a tiny girl. She just squeaks by the height requirement for the rides. It helped she was wearing her cowboy hat.

Old fashioned carousel with brightly painted horses. Extra tall slides for three with heavy wool blankets to slid on. Swings, ferris wheels, and giant swirly twirly bears. Mia drives a pink corvette emblazoned with the number six.

One of the favorites was the wacky worm roller coaster. We rode it twice. They take your picture as you come racing down the hill. We throw our hands in the air. However, due to Mia’s stature, you can’t even see her in the picture.

Ava even goes on the big kid roller coaster, she loves the rush of the big drops and high-speed.

We wander through the house of mirrors. Each kid takes a wrong turn and smacks into a wall. They laugh, brush themselves off, and move on.

A midway game tempts the girls. Pleading to win one of the stuffed animals, we stop and play. Catch a fish, win a prize. Everyone is a winner on the little kid midway.

Our game operator is a grandmother with 13 grandkids. She helps Mia win a “medium” prize. Mia examines what is available, picking up each toy. We must have hit the jackpot with this game operator as she asks Mia if she likes unicorns. (How did she know?) She crosses across the tent and pulls down a unicorn attached to a rainbow. Her only one.

Mia is thrilled to have found the “unicorn section” of the fair. She hugs her toy tightly and thanks our game operator.

Then it was Ava’s turn. Grandma whispers to me that she’ll make sure sister gets the same size prize. Ava fishes and gets two “Smalls,” however she lets Ava pick from the “Medium” boxes. Thank you, lovely lady for understanding the delicate balance between sisters.

We wander down towards the barn, where rows of animals are on show. Homemade signs decorated in bric-brac, glitter, and paint proclaim the uniqueness of each animal.

Cows daydream peacefully in piles of fresh hay. Goats, sheep, and pigs rest in clean small pens. Some have big blue ribbons attached and memories of Charlotte’s web float through my mind. “Some Pig!” “Terrific!” “Radiant!” “Humble!”

Near the barn, the fair has the most amazing petting zoo. It has your standard animals, goats, pigs, chickens, bunnies, and a donkey. However, this one also has wallabies, deer, and two huge llamas sitting quietly amongst the kids. Old bristly brushes are in buckets attached to the wall. Kids can brush the animals, which they seem to really enjoy. Ava makes friends with the wallaby. The lady tells her if she pets the wallaby under her neck, she’ll stretch out her paw to hold. Ava does just this and soon she is clasping the wallaby’s paw. The deer were especially hungry and one almost eats my wallet. They are beautiful, but watch out! Dresses, shorts, and skirts are all fair game!

It’s snack time and the girls have been waiting to try cotton candy. Ava has been talking about it all week. Anticipation high. They still make it with the old-fashioned machine, but it is made early in the day and stuffed into plastic bags. As a child, I remember the sweet sparkly fluffy goodness of cotton candy on a paper stick. Tufted pink clouds sticking to my fingers and face. It simply melted in your mouth.

The cotton candy of today has no fluff, the bags reduce it to dense balls of colored sugar. I see the disappointment when the girls try it for the first time. Ava tried so hard to “like” it. I can see she doesn’t, but she eats it anyways hoping it’s gets better. Both eventually give up and it goes in the trash. I wish they still made it fresh.

Moving on from the cotton candy, we pack ourselves into the stands for the pig races. Set up like an indy 500, the HamBone Express proclaims they have “the swiftest swine off the line!”

Little pigs with celebrity names squeal and race around a track. We cheer from the stands. A winner is chosen from the crowd. The lucky recipient is crowned with a plastic pig nose attached to an elastic string. He or she dances a silly pig dance while the crowd claps and yells in support. Both girls learned the dance by osmosis and happily performed it in the living room later that evening.

The day grew long and the girls were tired. It was time to go home.

On our way out, we stop at the Looney Tooter Train. It is the one ride Mia really wanted to go on. Randomly, she was stung by a bee while riding on the train.

She cried, “Mommy, I was stung by a bee!” Tears streamed down her face, a stinger stuck in her cheek below her eye. We immediately walked over to first aid, where we met Mr. Orvis, our medic for the duration. We were the only patients, so Mr. Orvis and team fussed over Mia with great care and attention. He carefully pulled out the remaining stinger, applied some medicine and cold pack to her face. Mia was stoic and a brave. No crying or moving as he pulled out the tiniest pieces of stinger. She wanted a band-aid when he was finished. However they were out of kids’ bandages, so he improvised. He took a small round band-aid, drew a smiley face on it, and placed in on her face. She beamed.

By the time we left first aid, Mia was happy and skipping along. And as we made our way back, she entertained random groups of fair-goers with her wild story of bees and band-aids. Folks listened and appreciated the tiniest of tales.

Badge of Courage. Badge of Honor.

Mia had earned it and she wore it proudly.

Toys tucked tightly in tired arms. Happy sleepy faces. Feet scuffling along at a snail’s pace.

Good-bye county fair, we’ll see you next year.

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