We all went to the Boone County Fair over the weekend. Daniel had been there the day it opened with his summer camp. He regaled us with tales of riding the Zipper – a carnival ride that looks like a giant chainsaw – and the Zero Gravity – a spinning top that plasters the occupants against the inside walls. Daniel was mad he didn’t have enough tickets to ride the Fireball rollercoaster and wanted to go to the fair again. Meka and I both wondered who this child was and what had happened to the real Daniel, the one who was scared to ride the bumper cars at last year’s fair.
Meka and I – of course – had also been to the fair earlier in the week. We worked the Cub Scout booth Thursday night. Neither of us had seen much of the fair except for a long line of people and boxes and boxes of ice cream. So, Saturday afternoon, we drove down the road to the fairgrounds to have a little fun. “Little” was the operative word; we didn’t have a lot of money to spend. Daniel’s birthday is coming up and Meka starts NIU in a couple of weeks. We had about fifty bucks and decided we’d stay at the fair as long as it lasted.
We parked for free and got our hands stamped at the entrance. It was $5 each for Meka and me. Daniel is under ten, so he got in for nothing. I bought a “family pack” of tickets for the various rides. $20 got us 22 tickets. That wasn’t as much as you’d think; each ride cost three tickets, some even cost four. Still, Daniel was able to take on the Fireball. Meka had to go on with him. There were no single riders allowed. I went with Daniel on the Octopus, a multi-armed contraption that moved up and down while the occupants’ cars spun around. It looked pleasant enough from ground level. However, I hadn’t factored in our different in weight. Even with eighteen weeks of Weight Watchers under my belt, I probably outmass the child by a hundred pounds. So, our car spun particularly violently as we went up and down. We got our tickets’ worth on the ride; I think it lasted an hour or so.
Once the tickets were gone, we wandered around the grounds to see what else the fair had to offer. We had a bit to eat, but the food was surprisingly expensive. A bag of cotton candy set us back $4. We didn’t play any of the games of chance. I did that once at a carnival in Duluth, Minnesota. I ended up with a stuffed Pokemon that set me back about ten times the amount it would have cost to buy in a store.
Though we were broke, there were still plenty of booths to peruse. Every political figure in Boone County was more than happy to give us balloons and bumper stickers. The major employers in the area also had giveaways. Green Giant had balloons and coloring books. General Mills was giving away little plastic toys without all the hassle of eating a box of their cereal.
Then there were all the animals. I believe they’re really the reason county fairs exist in the first place. The first outbuilding had the corrals for the draft animals: Clydesdale horses. Those horses are big! Even the colts were taller than I was. Cows had two buildings: one for beef cattle and the other for dairy. There were warnings that the horses might bite. However, the cows were just all tied up with their backs to the aisleways. The only one I remember being fenced in was the steer voted “Best Carcass”. I assume he wasn’t too happy about winning that title… either that or for becoming a steer.
Most of the sheep had been shorn by the time we saw them. A number of them were dressed up in coats like you’d torture a little dog with in the wintertime. They don’t shave the sheep heads, so we could still feel a little wool. Some were rough, like rope. Others felt almost like petting cotton balls. The black sheep were the noisiest. They were off in a pen at the end of the row. One was busy trying to eat his way through the lock and chain.
My favorite animals were the rabbits. I used to think there were two types of rabbits: the f%^&ing rabbits that eat our bushes and the ones magicians pull out of hats. However, the Boone County Fair had at least a dozen different breeds on display. Each one had variants by size and color. The Flemish Giants looked like normal rabbits except for their size. My guess is they weighed in north of twenty pounds a piece. The Siamese rabbits were black and tan (not cross-eyed though). My favorite ones this time were the Lionhead rabbits. They looked like Tribbles from Star Trek except for a little pink nose poking out from the fluff on one end.
It was dark by then and there was a rodeo going on at the grandstand. You needed to buy a ticket to get a seat, but the area was surrounded by a chain link fence. There was plenty of standing room if we wanted to watch it for free. However, it was chilly and starting to rain. We headed for the exit instead. Compared to how long $50 would last in Las Vegas, or even how long it would last going to the movies in Rockford, I’d say we got a pretty good deal at the Boone County Fair. Our $50 provided us about four hours of entertainment.