By Heather Mullinix
Neon lights and carnival music? Check.
All kinds of delicious treats, from Frito Bandito to candied apples to funnel cake? Check.
A year’s worth of quilts, canning, crops and crafts? Check.
Yep, it’s time again for the annual Cumberland County Fair, with the fair getting started this week with entries in the exhibits taken beginning Thursday at the Cumberland County Community Complex.
This year, the Fair Association has set the theme as “A Family Heritage,” and that seems only fitting, in my humble opinion.
I have so many wonderful memories of going to the fair or volunteering at the fair or competing at the fair, and so many of those memories include my dear family.
I can remember working with my parents and grandparents to prepare crafts and baked goods for the fair competition. I loved to enter the exhibits. It was great to get a ribbon. It was even better to sock away a little spending money from the prize money.
When I was younger, my mom did a lot of sewing and my sister and I would don our garments for the annual fair fashion show. Later, we’d take the stage in our own designs and fashions in the 4-H fashion show.
Then there was fair day, when school was called off and the kids got to take over the midway with special ride discounts from early in the morning until the afternoon. In my family, this day was known as Grandma’s day.
My grandmother would volunteer to take myself, my sister and my two cousins to the fair each year. We’d get there as gates were opening and buy a wristband that would let us ride the carnival rides all day long — or until heat stroke, dehydration and exhaustion sidelined us, whichever came first.
Grandma would pick us up at our homes and we’d buckle in while she commented on the “precious cargo” she was entrusted with for the day. Then it was off to the county fairgrounds.
Grandma would find a comfortable spot in the shade and enjoy time socializing with friends from the community while we kids went off in four different directions. School usually started the week before, but we’d gone all summer without seeing our friends on a regular basis. Fair day was as much about catching up with friends as seeing how many times you could ride the Gravitron in a row without losing your breakfast. Ah, those simpler times.
We’d each check in with Grandma throughout the day and join her for lunch by the concession stand operated by the youth baseball league. They had the best burgers, greasy, fried and topped with a thick slab of cheese.
After lunch, it was usually a good time to walk over to the exhibit buildings. You didn’t want to get on the Super Loops too soon after a greasy lunch. Even our nine-year-old stomachs held this to be a universal truth. The exhibits were always fun to see.
By that time, there was just an hour or so left before the midway closed for the afternoon and our wristbands became nothing more than reminders of our fun. That’s just enough time to get in a few more turns on the carousel and take a wild ride on the Himalaya and get good and dizzy on the Scrambler. Grandma would then gather us back up and take us, exhausted and happy, back home.
Now, I no longer have the time to return to my old county fair. My sister and cousins are busy with their families and we don’t have many opportunities for such care-free days together and Grandma passed away several years ago. But I still have those wonderful memories of a Thursday in August every year, from about first grade to eighth grade, sharing these fun-filled days with them.
There will be lots of opportunities for Cumberland County families to make their own special fair memories next week, with special events, entertainment and demonstrations offered every night, beginning with the pet show on Monday. Midway opens at 5 p.m. that evening. Keep up with what’s happening throughout the week at www.cumberlandcofair.com.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published each Tuesday. She may be reached at email@example.com.