Monday, September 5, 2005

Blue Ribbon Good Times

Today marks the beginning of the week long tradition known as the Dyer County Fair . Now in its' 58th year, the county fair offers something for everyone who passes through the gates into another world. As a child, fair week was a tradition with my family. My Dad was president one year and on the board of directors forever and my Mom would work in the office where she took care of everything from emergency calls for carnival workers to cutting checks for prizes in the various lots, classes and divisions of competition. The money was just gravy for competitors though, for the real prize was a blue, red or white ribbon awarded to their entries.
red white and blue 2
I sold admission tickets at one of the two gates which was a good way to see everybody who came pouring in and my brother directed traffic, a job reserved for good old boys decked out in neon with flashlights waving.

Food is a highlight of the event with some of the best cooks in the county manning booths sponsored by civic organizations such as 4-H, band boosters and the usual Civitan, Rotary and Jaycee organizations. Following a good old greasy burger or white beans one can pass on the homemade cake or pie and take a stroll down the midway in search of other treats such as funnel cake, cotton candy or fiddlesticks. Careful not to eat too much though! You sure don't want to get queasy while riding those gut clenching adventures like "Tilt-a-Whirl" or "The Zipper". Many a southern romance has begun with a young man winning his girl a big stuffed animal playing a game of chance. The spook house always scared me to death with its' dark mazes and distorting mirrors!

No visit to the fair is complete without a tour of the commercial building where employees construct and man booths advertising various local businesses. These are judged as well and a place ribbon is a coveted award for any business owner. Many of them hold drawings for visitors during the course of the week giving away nice door prizes at the end. There is a nightly drawing for cash from the admission ticket stubs and on Saturday night the big prize is drawn for....a new vehicle!!

Currently housed in a spacious area near the youth league baseball fields, the former fairgrounds was located adjacent to the city cemetary. I will never forget how odd it felt to attend my uncle's funeral with a ferris wheel as the backdrop to the somber occasion. Fundraising efforts for a new building there included proceeds from the sale of my mother's cookbook "From the Back Burner" which was dedicated to one of the fair's most notable fixtures, Vernon "Red" Henson. What a character he was! His gruff exterior quickly vanished when approached by a lost child or someone in need. Getting that cookbook back into print is a goal for my daughter and myself because people STILL clamor for it. Mom was a newspaper columnist for the local paper for years and shared recipes from everyone she knew and the sensible ending to that career was a compilation of recipes from the best of Dyer County.

As the midway barker would sing " Step right up and try your luck!" There's something for everybody at the Dyer County Fair. See y'all in the hog barn.