By Leslie Criss
“When I was a kid and the carnival would come to the shopping enter, I’d go down and talk to all the people running the rides. I like that whole lifestyle, moving from town to town in a nomadic existence.”
– Randy Quaid
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
– George Eliot
Last Sunday, I spent a few hours walking the midway of the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson.
The cool fall breeze was warmed by the early autumn sun’s rays. Perfect fair weather. My friend and I arrived only 30 minutes after the fair’s Sunday opening, so the sounds were subdued at first.
Before we purchased our Malone’s Salt Water Taffy, left the fairgrounds and headed north toward home, the noise had expanded exponentially: the clanging and clicking mechanical sounds of the rides merged with the screams and squeals of the riders; the carnies’ chants created to charm children and adults alike into playing their games.
And where but a fair midway do the smells of an ample smorgasbord of snacks mingle and make even the most health-conscious among us opt for a morsel or more of high-dollar junk food.
I shelled out $4 for a roasted ear of corn, but I’m not complaining. It was hot and tender and delicious.
Two friends who travel to festivals and fairs with their Funny Face Foods tried to get me to try what they claim is this year’s most popular fair food – deep fried mac ‘n’ cheese.
I’ve lived this long without being tempted by deep fried Twinkies or deep fried Oreos. So, I said “no, thank you” to the deep fried pasta.
I felt my stomach lurch as I watched the more daring folks turned and tossed upside down and sideways on rides I’m much too afraid to try.
I thought back to the fairs of my childhood, when peer pressure, pride or prepubescent pluck pushed me onto Ferris wheels, the Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl and worse, free of all fear.
Oh, how I miss that youthful courage.
All those years ago my father, the fair-going parent, allowed my sister and me to throw darts at balloons, toss ping pong balls into fishbowls and try to knock over bottles with baseballs. He doled out dollars knowing full well the cost for attempting to win far outweighed the worth of any prize my sister or I might take home.
The large stuffed animals we wished to possess were the only prizes we could see. Imagine our disappointment when we finally made an acceptable number of balloons burst, looked skyward to choose the prize of our dreams and had the game keeper reach under the counter and pull out a piece of junk not even worthy of placement in a Crackerjack box.
Last Sunday I played a single game and won a large stuffed Pug.
Oh, how I love a fair.
Especially in the fall.