Being Beautiful: Tales of Ferris wheels, funnel cakes, and first cousins galore

The fair is coming to town!

Well, that depends on the town where you live, but many state and local fairs happen in October each year. We drove in from the country every year for this much-anticipated event, and what a night that was.

I remember how the fair thrilled me from the top of my head down to my toes. We never ventured farther than the next town over, which was Laurel, but it was worth the drive as they had a wonderful country fair. Mama and her sisters would pack as many of us kids into the family cars as possible, and when you count my 30-plus first cousins, that makes for a party on wheels. As the caravan slowed down near the fairgrounds on those dark nights illuminated only by the distant glow of the Ferris Wheel lights flickering through the front windshield, Mama and Aunt Avis laid down the rules.

Of course, Mama was known for many things, discipline not being one of them, so rules were made to be broken.

Her list included no talking to strangers, no wandering off by yourself, no hitting, slapping, punching, pinching, poking, pushing or kicking. The list went on and on, but I focused on the magic of being with Mama at the fair in all its splendor. I was the youngest so she squeezed my hand tightly in hers with the death grip only a mother knows. My cousins ran along in front pointing out with unbridled glee the Tilt-a-Whirl or the Carousel up ahead. The older ones terrified the grown-ups by riding the Zipper, the Hurricane, or the death-defying Kamikaze which spun passengers way into the air, holding them upside down for seconds that seemed like hours.

Mama and Aunt Avis held their breath, shut their eyes, probably prayed—and took an extra bite of cotton candy.

My favorite attractions were the fast bumper cars, dizzying tea cups and the petting zoo where I was entranced by the miniature ponies. I will never forget the year I was finally tall enough to climb onto the Pirate Ship which, much to her dismay, went way too high and way too fast for Mama’s baby. It was the first and last time I braved it, at least with her watching from below. There were giant corndogs, hot funnel cakes, and the famous chicken-on-a-stick. Then there were the games with prizes. I cannot count the number of gold fish in tiny glass bags we brought home.

I had fun getting lost in the House of Mirrors and got scared to death in the House of Horrors. It’s almost that time of year when fairgrounds across the country light up the nights filled with neon bulbs, caramel apples, and memories to last a lifetime. I am lucky the older kids could sink the basketball through the hoop, for can a child have too many stuffed elephants, giraffes, and raccoons in his menagerie?

I think not.

Contact David at [email protected].