This weekend, the carnival is in town for the annual "Homecoming Days" or something like that. It's a tradition around here, and got me thinking of fairs I attended as a child. We called them "Fireman's Field Days" for some reason; I guess every town's fire dept. owned a field (yes, I'm a country bumpkin...). Anyhow, without further adieux, here's what I remember:
1. Eating steamed clams with drippy butter sauce--and one time getting one that was full of sand that squirted all over in my mouth when I bit down on it (eeuww!).
2. Getting 2 or 3 bucks from dad that should--and would!--last me all weekend.
3. Playing the duck pond game. I even played this with Son a few years back when we were back home during "Field Day" weekend. It's the stupidest game in the world, but it's my favorite.
4. The Whiskey Wheel. Oh yes, folks, our grand and resplendent poobahs (otherwise known as the Knights of Columbus) sponsored this grown up game for years until regulations got the best of them. You'd put your money on a number, they'd spin the wheel and if it landed on your number, you won YOUR CHOICE of a bottle of booze! Isn't that a trip? How times have changed...
5. The Cake Wheel. Same as the whiskey one, except you won cake. My mother always baked a nice cake for this game, and her cake was usually gone the first night. (She's a great cook.)
6. Meeting up with all my friends and going on rides together. This was such a thrill for me because we lived way out and I rarely saw friends once school let out. I can see them all in my mind's eye: The Rocket, The Roundup, The Scrambler, The Ferris Wheel... thrills, chills and spills galore and I loved every minute.
7. Cotton candy. Back in my day it was pink and came on a stick. No bags, no other colors. Just pink on a stick. And it was heavenly.
8. The parade. We'd have 5 or 6 fire companies, at least that many school bands, floats and cub scouts and auxiliaries and Highpockets--this was a guy who made a living as a balloon-sculpting clown on stilts. I remember one year our local fire dept. got called out to a fire shortly before the parade was to start. So we enjoyed the parade, and then pretty much everyone waited when it was over...waited... and there they came, our boys. Filthy and tired and the applause was deafening.
9. Speaking of parades my sister was in the marching band all through high school. She was in the rifles and did pretty cool drill while the music was playing. I can remember watching for her, and for my friends that were in the band as well. Okay, and I watched for boys I had crushes on, too. Happy now?
10. The crowd around the beer tent. When I was young I always skirted around it because it was a crush in there; you could never get through. When I got older and more daring, I would navigate through because there was a certain cachet to being seen there. Why, I don't know.
11. Checking people out. Not just who was dating whom, but who had broken up with whom, who was looking seriously fine this summer and who was not, all that important stuff to pre-teens and teens of my day.
12. The fire dept's chicken roast. Was it some special seasoning, or was it the rotisserie and open flames, or was it just being at the field days that made it taste so good?
13. Fair sounds. The rides grinding their gears, the 'ding' of the bell at the strongman game, the clickety-clack of the whiskey/cake wheels, the music of the carousel, the shrieks and the catcalls and, most of all, the talking. Everyone talked back then. There were no cell phones or emails or texts. People talked, laughed, argued, reminisced, for hours and late into the night.
Will I go to the 'Homecoming' this weekend? You bet. It's nothing like the Field Days of my youth, but the sights and the sounds take me back to a time I loved. And besides, it's right up the street!
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