July 8th…“IN MINNESOTA, DID YOUR FAMILY ATTEND A COUNTY FAIR? WHICH ONE? WHERE AT?”
Even before our family car banked into the fair entrance driveway, I caught the illustrious sights and sounds of the Faribault County Fair. A giant, elegant octagonal barn stood along the busy highway that bordered the fair’s entrance gates. That handsome barn was like an agricultural “lighthouse” to the brightness of the farming that surrounded the town where I was born, Blue Earth, Minnesota.
Our big sister, Rosemary, and brother Lowell were members of our local agricultural club known as the “Kee” 4-H Club. For months before the fair time arrived, each elder sibling would feed, train, groom and prepare one of our Holstein cows to take to the Faribault County Fair in hopes of winning a coveted First Place Blue Ribbon from the judges there. In order to keep an eye on their animals that were entered for competition, Lowell and Rosie actually lived at the fairgrounds for the duration of the fair time. A long, white wooden box was constructed to hold all their gear and personal belongings. They even painted their names on the box and decorated the box with decals from their 4-H Club. It must’ve been a wonderful adventure for them, as teenagers, to take care of their animals on the grounds there, but to also explore the rides and fun with friends in the evenings. Then, it was back to their respective barns to bed down alongside their bovine entries for the night.
On certain days of the Faribault County Fair, our parents took my little sister and I up to see the festivities and our older counterparts with their bovine beauties. Once Dad had paid our admission and parked the car, I bounded out and made a beeline for “Machinery Hill”. Farm equipment dealers in our area would bring their newest agricultural tractors and implements to display on this grassy knoll for all to admire (and hopefully buy). Ohhh, how I just LOVED to climb aboard each and every one of those magnificent machines and tractors; imagining that I owned them all!!! There’d I’d be, perched atop a giant, brand new corn picker combine harvester and turning on my imagination juices as I bounced in the driver’s seat with glee. I’d envision that I was driving this on the gravel roads near our farm and pulling into a corn field (or whatever) to engage this metal marvel to do its work as I’d harvest my imaginary crops.
“That’s the smell of money, Son” is what our Norwegian farmer father would say to me about the various animal odors at our home place near Kiester. When it came to the “Eau De Cologne” of country living, I enjoyed the fragrance of “Porcine Perfume” or “Bovine Beauty #5”. With happy nostrils to guide me, I took in the wondrous list of animals that took temporary residence at the fairgrounds each summer. From the baby runt pigs suckling their momma sow, all the way up to the mighty, mountainous draft horses; all was magical for this country boy to enjoy.
All of my boyhood senses were twitterpated at the fair each year!!! Especially towards evening, when the myriad of colored lights would come ablaze across the fairgrounds as carnival rides, midway games and food concession booths all displayed a rainbow of colors…….and, smells of yummy for the tummy!!! My monies could only go so far, but I saw everything from golden, fresh sweet corn smothered in real creamery butter, pink cotton candy that swirled magically round and round in its drum as a concessionaire would “capture” it on a cone stick. Corn dogs flooded the area with their aroma as mustard was drizzled over those cylindrical, tasty delights.
Whilt-A-Tirls, Wherris Feels and Coller Roasters were just some of the high energy rides at the fair each year. Ohhhh, you never heard of those? O.K……I’ll change their names back to Tilt-A Whirl, Ferris Wheel and Roller Coasters 🙂 If it wasn’t these attractions that got your spending money, it was the never ending line of games on the Midway. Later in life, I shot almost $40 on games and came away with a handful of trinkets. Learned my lesson after THAT fair experience.
Captured in my mellow memory vault are the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” and the laughter-filled magic of the Faribault County Fair for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.