Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday Memories—Labor Day

Grand Champion year—the people standing behind us are judges, etc.

I’ve always celebrated Labor Day exactly opposite of how it was intended to be celebrated. It’s a day to catch up rather than a day to play. When I was a dependent, Labor Day was the first day of the Twin Falls County Fair. Our family was active in 4-H, so Labor Day was spent washing the steers, loading them into the truck, driving them 30 miles to the fair, weighing them in and then tying them up in the barn in the new straw under the crepe paper decorations. Fair Week was as big as Christmas. No exaggeration. Our county fair was the largest county fair in the world we told ourselves. There were barns and barns of animals—cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and a few geese. Merchant Buildings had booths supervised by everyone from the Culligan man to the Singer sewing seamstresses, while the carnival was positively an alley of sin. The food, in memory, was wonderful—tater pigs, greasy tacos and corndogs. The produce and home-arts buildings were colorful and inspiring—purple eggplant, pale green kohlrabi, sugar beets, decorated cakes, afghans and wedding dresses.

Being active 4-H’ers, the fair was the end to dusty, fly-filled afternoons of training and grooming our animals. For several months we had to comb, feed, exercise, and try to grow thick hair on our steers. The fair meant all that work was over. Somehow it didn’t hurt as much when I was kicked by my animal at the fair as when I was kicked at home, and I became miraculously attached to him at the fair when I might have detested him all summer long. The fair had that special kind of magic.

The year Evil Kneivel tried to jump the Snake River Canyon on his motorcycle nearly ruined the fair for us all. Thousands were to descend upon our town when he attempted his jump which was the same week as the county fair. The topic at our 4-H meetings included “How to protect yourself from the Hell’s Angels” as well as how much grain your animal should be eating. Our parents considered chaperoning us every step and day of the fair—a casualty to be sure. We compromised and promised we wouldn’t walk through the carnival alone. That year was as fun as any other, which just proves that nothing can ruin a good county fair.

we had ten children in our family and the man that worked for Dad had nine and though all nineteen of us didn’t take animals at the same time, it still made for a lot of steers for one ranch to take to the fair each year

My favorite freebie at the fair was the licorice-flavor suckers that Amalgamated Sugar handed out, followed by the yardsticks by . . . hmmmm, I can't remember now who gave us those (so much for advertising). How about you? Are you a fair junkie collector? What is your favorite merchant freebie?


Ande Payne said...

Mom this post made me miss, miss, miss the fair. After that fair space burgers and the demo derby are such a let down. My favorite thing to collect (besides the yard stick...I liked those too) were the key chains and stickers. I also liked to go and look at the hot tub/above ground swimming pool section and wish I had a swimming pool. What great memories you created for us Mom.

Barb said...

I have probably told you this before, but my Carmen has asked me, "How did a country girl like me come to a city family like ours?"
Your memories of 4-H-ing are her dearest wishes. I keep telling her she can't just raise a lamb in our back yard.

Jill said...

Wow, this could NOT be more outside my own life experiences, yet you write so vividly I feel like I had was there too!

Lucy said...

This was my husband's experience every summer, but, almost sadly, not mine. I, like Carmen, kind of wonder how the country girl inside of me didn't get the chance to be. How fun to read your memories.

Anonymous said...

There is such a country girl in me and this post speaks to her! What a fun memory to share. I love the fair and long for the days when both my girls will love it too.

deidra said...

Once I was old enough to take a steer to the fair, I got to do it once, and then our family stopped. I'm not sure I'm too sad about that. I was glad for the sale! But lots of memories of the fair (Cassia County) as well. Time at the horse races, early morning washings/grooming and hanging out with lots of cousins!

Cali said...


Ditto to all that you and ande said. Just seeing the sign behind all of you and all your steers made me miss that fair. My favorites were the free Barton's Club 93 Casino balloons (for the helium of course) and walking through the motor-home/RV's on display and picking out the one I liked most. Oh, and sneaking into the Bingo tent and hoping someone wouldn't like the prize they won and give it to me.

Em K DUB said...

My Padre has been a member of the Rodeo association for 21yrs. and so Fair time for us was always busy as well, I used to get free rodeo shirts, and one year Lorna Skeen who used to own Skeens Western Wear gave my sister and I Baseball hats completely covered in sequins. . . . so that was pretty awesome! Also, the free fans given out by the republican booth where a plus on really hot days. . .especially this year!

That's so funny about the year Evel attempted the snake river jump, You'll have to tell me sometime what you learned from the Hell's Angel's talk you got. I bet that was crazy, but I'm sure glad it didn't ruin your fun!