Column: Meet me at the fair? You bet, even todayWORTHINGTON — Monday morning I was caught up in — I don’t remember what. Nothing important. I wanted to get to the Nobles County fairgrounds to see if there were kids walking across the grounds, walking slowly, pushing back a clump of grass with a bare foot now and then, eyes fixed on the ground like a cat on a cricket.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Monday morning I was caught up in — I don’t remember what. Nothing important.
I wanted to get to the Nobles County fairgrounds to see if there were kids walking across the grounds, walking slowly, pushing back a clump of grass with a bare foot now and then, eyes fixed on the ground like a cat on a cricket.
Kids used to do this on the morning after the fair. It was part of the summer’s end ritual. The point was to find nickels, dimes, maybe a quarter which some fair-goer had lost. Now and then some kid would hit pay dirt. “Look what I found!”
These were not sunken-eyed waifs with empty stomachs hoping for money to buy bread. These kids were akin to hopeful people searching for a medallion. Each hoped to be the one who walked away with 50 cents.
I thought the 2010 Nobles County Fair was — well, I thought it was great. Day by day I don’t get to see exotic goats and rabbits, kids running in excitement for having a blue ribbon or money to ride the Ferris wheel, beautiful horses, arrays of prize photographs, corn stalks 15 feet high, handmade quilts, exquisite flowers. We have to wait a year for another strawberry milk shake to equal those offered by county dairy farmers.
I hear people say, “I don’t think fairs will be around much longer; people have other interests now.” I want to say, “Baloney!” Sometimes I do say, “Baloney!” County fairs are one of the great manmade wonders of America’s countryside. There is no video game to provide a thrill for a second-grader which is greater than the thrill of the tilt-a-whirl or the merry-go-round.
There are obvious things which could enhance our fairs. The Daily Globe is filled week by week with stories of awesome things done by our people with wood, with paints, with cameras, with quilt blocks, with crochet thread. Many more of these things should be on view in the exhibition halls.
Access to the Nobles County fairgrounds is chiefly along the north-south road behind the 4-H building, behind the commercial building, on to Pioneer Village. Gravel dust still lifts behind every vehicle coming and going. Breezes still blow clouds of dust over the fair and the exhibits.
We are rounding out the first decade of the 21st century. Maybe between now and the 22nd century — we’ve got 90 years — maybe Nobles County’s commissioners could find money to put a layer of blacktop on the dusty fairgrounds’ trail.
The thrills of the fair are largely simple thrills. In a time gone by — more than a year ago — a Minnesota state department used to make the rounds of county fairs with large aquariums. I don’t think the sponsor was named DNR at that time. You could stand before the aquariums — very many people did stand before the aquariums — to see fish from area lakes, bullheads and crappies, perch, walleyes, Northerns. The fish were fascinating to all.
One of the sensations of fairs gone by is lost. No one brings matched teams of work horses to fairs these days. No one has matched teams of work horses any longer.
Einer Hansen was one who never failed to bring a team or two to the fairgrounds, in part just for the excitement this provided for kids. Einer had teams of Belgians, giant and gentle horses as big (it seemed) as some of the farm machinery which is displayed today. Einer’s horses were awesome for their size. There were other teams, not as large, which were awesome for their strength and shiny beauty.
There are sights from the 2010 fair which seem destined to continue in memory. Did you see those all-black ducks? They were remindful of Daffy Duck, but Daffy has orange legs and orange webbed feet, an orange beak. The Nobles County Fair ducks were black from their toe nails to the ends of their beaks.
One of the things that tickled was a rabbit, a real pooka, nearly as big as Harvey, stretched long in his cage and sound asleep. Hanging beside him was his award, a tag which certified, “Here is a blue ribbon champion.”
Great white rabbit rested on his laurels.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.