Advertisement

A trip to the fair combines old, new memories

July 18, 2013|Amy Dulebohn

A summer mainstay of my childhood was attending the Franklin County Fair, near Chambersburg, Pa. 

My dad, the most hardworking man I ever knew, was a dairy farmer who never went to the beach or anywhere else that would preclude his cows’ 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. milking schedules. Thus, he referred to the county fair as his summer vacation. Each year, we attended each night of the weeklong event, and actually went twice on Saturdays. 

I was allowed to ride the rides all night every night and all day Saturday, in the years before you could pay one price for unlimited riding, and I had access to many, many games, including the then-nickel pitch, and the duck pick up. While economic conditions were different in those days, I’m sure even then it wasn’t cheap to let a little girl enjoy rides and games to her heart’s content for an entire week. 

Advertisement

I couldn’t afford to give my daughter such a luxury, so I jumped at the chance to attend the fair on Saturday afternoon, when free kiddie rides were offered. I made plans to get there well before the 2 p.m. ride start time, so my 3-year-old would have plenty of time to check out the animals and all the other exhibits, and we could also enjoy the food. The 4-H Beef Club stand has the best hamburgers I have ever eaten, hands down. If my dad was here, he might tell you to choose a porkburger, but suffice it to say, anything sold by that club is worth checking out. 

When we arrived at the fairgrounds, my excitement was twinged slightly with melancholy as I realized that was my first trip to the Pennsylvania fairgrounds since my father’s death in late 2011. Yet I smiled as the familiar scent that combines farm animals, straw and sawdust trickled through my nostrils. This might sound strange, but I love that smell. It reminds me of those wonderful weeks at the fair when I was a carefree child. 

While she was not so patiently awaiting the rides to open, my daughter was delighted to become acquainted with the many cows, goats, rabbits and chickens on display along with a lone horse that she insisted on renaming.   

A most receptive preschooler, my daughter is very sensitive to smell, and laments when she has to often breathe in the odor of barnyards, skunks or other maladies while we’re driving in the car.

 I was waiting for her to complain about the fairground smell. I couldn’t have been more surprised when, while walking through the barn, she remarked, “Mommy, I like this smell.” 

Other than the ice cream, the food wasn’t too big of a draw for her, but I think it’s safe to say she enjoyed her sandwich and lemonade. 

At last the rides opened, and much like I used to, my daughter had the time of her life. 

We spent two hours running back and forth amongst the offerings, riding and meeting new friends along the way. 

Toward the end of the day I was relaxing, leaning against the metal fence that surrounded the truck ride. My daughter was sitting, securely buckled in her seat, nose crinkled, as she waited for the ride to start. I didn’t notice the face she was making until my sister, who was standing next to me, pointed it out. 

My dad used to crinkle his nose at me all the time when I was a kid and we would make a game of it. 

Seeing my daughter make that gesture at the fair, I was struck. I gazed off into the distance. 

Under a clear blue sky on a summer afternoon, it was as though I could see my dad off in the distance, leaning on a barn gate, his familiar Pioneer hat pushed down to his brow, offering me a wink from his light blue eyes. 

My daughter and I didn’t spend the entire week at the fair this year, and we might never do that.

 But the meshing of old memories and new experiences for both me and my daughter on that summer afternoon planted seeds for many more years of fun at the Franklin County Fair. And maybe an extra burger, too.

First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer and feature writer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is amyc@herald-mail.com.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|