The county fair has been an essential part of my summer for as long as I can remember. Even though I gag at the smell of livestock and make fun of all the deep-fried food-on-a-stick and hate coming home covered in dust from the hay and the dirt, it’s still one of my favorite parts of each summer. All the sights, sounds, and – mostly importantly – SMELLS are what I’m used to. I get weirdly nostalgic about it even as I’m making fun of it.
I knew I wouldn’t be home in time to go to the fair in my hometown so when I made my summer 2016 bucket list several months ago, I included “visit the Johnson County Fair.” Well, I went there last night with my roommate and it satisfied that weird nostalgia/fair food craving.
We ate a funnel cake and bought overpriced lemonade and basically made a ginormous, glorious, sticky mess.
We took pictures of all the cute animals and debated which ride was the coolest. (But rode none of them, because we are broke college students and the ride passes cost like $10, which was $10 more than we wanted to spend.)
We watched some kind of horse competition we didn’t understand. If the goal was to fall off the horses as much as possible, these riders certainly excelled at it.
We laughed at the tacky ears of corn carved out of wood that were for sale all over the place.
We got lost.
We oohed and aahed at the fireworks. (They accidentally set the grass on fire. Oh, Iowa. You tried.)
All in all, it was a super fun, super dorky way to spend the evening. My roommate and I don’t have much more time together since she heads back home to Brazil in just a few days, so I’m really glad that we got to do this. We haven’t known each other very long – we only moved into summer housing in May – but she’s really nice and we’ve had fun finding things to keep ourselves amused this summer in between my classes and her internship.
She said the fair reminded her of home, actually, that they have similar fairs where she’s from. Mostly the smell, she said, but also things like the food – she didn’t know what a funnel cake was but once she took her first bite she said it tasted just like a Brazilian dessert with a different name. I’M GLAD PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES CAN BOND OVER FRIED DOUGH.
The fair reminded me of home, too. As I said earlier, it’s been a major part of my summer for so long, and I’ve been very involved in it due to being a member of 4-H. I graduated from the program last summer, so this is my first year as an alumni and it felt really weird to not be involved in it anymore.
It felt so weird to not have to scramble to finish a million and one 4-H projects at the last minute. To not have my parents breathing down my neck, pestering me to finish. To not spend hour after hour and day after day at the fair.
The last item in that list struck me as particularly strange. For the past few years, I’ve been at my hometown county fair for all ten days of its duration, plus some time before and after, due to volunteering commitments, 4-H events, my job as an office clerk, et cetera. Naturally I was always sick of the fair by the end of it, so it was lovely to go there last night for a few hours and know that I didn’t have to get up in the morning and do it all over again. (I can’t handle that much country music blasting from the loudspeakers.)
So, yeah. It was fun to go there. It was fun to hang out with my roommate. It was fun to talk to all the cows. (DON’T JUDGE ME.) I’m still kind of judging the Johnson County Fair because they didn’t have a Ferris wheel – what’s up with that? what even is a fair without a gigantic Ferris wheel? – but otherwise it ended up being one of my favorite items from my summer bucket list.