(not my son, not our fair)
The county fair begins this weekend.
Before my son came along, if my husband and I went to the fair, it was mainly to shop the novelty stands, play a few carnival games, and have a beer or two. If we didn't find a good band or an interesting act to watch, it was an early night.
Then along came my boy and, as kids are apt to do, he turned the lights on in our lives and even the fair is a new place brimming with things we had never noticed before.
I had no idea what we were missing.
My boy is a nature-nick. He gardens and raises his own worms and newts; he has his own pond, and he even cooks. He loathes rides, loud music, and mainstream mayhem.
When he was 5 years old, I got him started on making cookies and entering them in the fair. I thought it would be a one-year lark. He won first-place in the oatmeal category and that was it. Ever since, he takes his cookies very seriously. He has become a full-blown oatmeal cookie snob. And when he goes to enter his cookies, he takes on an aire of an Iron Chef entering Kitchen Stadium. Serious business.
Then we enter his pinewood derby car in the arts building. He is feeling pretty confident this year since the body of his car actually holds water (a la snowglobe). Pretty cool, I must say.
When we return to the fair once it is actually open, we must first check out the cookie placings. He is used to getting either first or second place. If not, we may be drowning our sorrows in a snow cone before heading over to check out the pinewood derby car category. Since very few people seem to realize they can enter their derby cars, the competition is not usually very stiff.
Then we head straight over to the native garden plot put on by the local extension office. He shakes them down for all kinds of information. They don't take him seriously at first, but once he refers to some plants by name and asks a question they don't know the answer to, he earns their respect. By the time we are leaving them, they are reminding him of the minimum age for volunteers in their office.
From there, we shop the booths looking for cheap lucky bamboo. It's amazing the price breaks people will give an earnest kid.
Then we hit the chicken barn and my son does his patented rooster call -- guaranteed to bend the ear of every rooster in the place and get an impassioned response from every single one of them. We leave the place a'rocking and a'cackling.
We stroll through the goat barn while we discuss the ins and outs of having goats, legally, in the city. Then we discuss the practicality in hiding goats in the city.
We will offer him an ice cream cone from the dairy barn, but when he confirms that the ice cream is not made on-site from the dairy cows we just petted, he will imply that it is a misleading scam and opt for a funnel cake instead.
After that we make a bee-line for the midway.
But it's not what you think.
My boy went on one ride too many last year at Hershey Park. He's now traumatized. No rides in his near future. But we head to the midway just far enough to find the fishbowl game. He has been saving his money for weeks. We will play until we win at least one -- even if he needs parental subsidies to finally score one. That fish wins the lottery because it will live in my son's pond along with prior years' winners, swimming freely and feasting lavishly on plant roots and larvae.
On our way out, we will meander through the agricultural barn and marvel at the beautiful flowers and huge vegetables. My son will outrageously claim that his sunflowers are every bit as big as the grand prize winner. My husband and I begin to question his visual accuracy.
All the way back to the car, we listen to him hatching a plan to grow the hugest pumpkin and the biggest sunflower and the reddest tomato for next year.
On the way home, he will implore us again to agree with him that his sunflower is way bigger. We will just sigh and roll our eyes.
Once we get home, no matter how late, he will want to float the fish bag in the pond and release his new tenant as soon as possible.
(his pond was still under construction in this pic)
I must admit, it is a specially satisfying feeling to watch a little fish who, just hours ago had a gloomy future, find his way out of the bag and finally realize he is free. The long, fast sprints of swimming are joyous to watch. Eventually, the fish finds the pond's depths and disappears from our view for the night.
We all come back inside and get ready for bed.
That's what the fair looks like when you're traveling with my boy; a nature-nick's take on the fair.
And I thought we'd been to the fair before him . . .