Sunday, July 29, 2007

In a 'Fair' mood....

Ironic that I live in a tropical climate where orange groves and lemon trees grow, producing bumper crops. And it is the lemon shake-ups, that the Shawnee Moms and Dads Club make at Ohio's Allen County Fair that I crave.

Of course orange and lemon season has long passed, so I did the next best thing and bought a sack of lemons at Sams Club and today I tried to recreate the tasty treat. It turned out better than I expected. As I sip my cold sweet-sour lemon drink with crunchy ice and wonderful fragrance, I think of the fairgrounds.

It is the place to go every August; most families prepare for the event all year. Kids work on 4-H projects. Parents prepare Cooperative Extension sewing and canning and baking entries. People displays all kinds of entries from produce, flowers, photography, quilts, needlecrafts and wood crafts, and sometimes the bizarre and weird of the agrarian world.

Cars and tractors are on display beside septic tanks and animal feeders. Tater Binkley supplies the port-a-potties -- well, he did at one time. I've heard rumors that he's out of the business. Demolition Derbies, harness racing, greased pig contests -- all took place in the grandstands....

We walked around the fairgrounds and saw everyone we knew. We'd talk and walk together, eat at the food tents (the barbecued chicken at the Shawnee Lion's was a must every year). Ahhh the air was rich with aromas -- mouth watering, unless you were at the manure end of the animal barns.

I received my first boy-girl kiss at the Allen County Fair and eventually married the son of the fair's superintendent of rabbits. There's a memorial in front of the rabbit barn to Derrol's dad -- Jack. He was killed by a drunk driver, that was a tough year. He's missed, especially come fair time.

I haven't been to the fair for several years -- not since we relocated away following Derrol's job. Many of the familiar faces are gone from the fair board. But traditions continue. Jay Begg has taken over as fair manager and seems to have kept much the same, yet I noticed a few changes.

In MY day, those Rock 'n Roll performers were never invited, no matter how cheap their fee or big the draw. Yet I see this year Buckcherry will be performing.... Its kind of scary to think that the groan and grind of heavy metal music has become mainstream at the Allen County Fair.

The Midway draws the teenagers and townies, the animal barns and displays attract the farm folk, and they all spend their precious dollars on fair food.

Along with the lemonade I crave the elephant ears, the homemade pies brought by Farm Bureau members for their food tent, the rib eye sandwiches, the corn dogs, candy apples, and the cinnamon rolls so big they require two hands to carry them.

But more than the food and drink, animals and prizes, I miss the people. I worked for the fair board every summer for several years. I miss working in the fair office during fair week and answering the same question hundreds of times. Giving directions to the same locations -- hundreds of times. I miss Louette and Camille, Carol and the board members, the presidents and members of the various organizations, the volunteers, the horse people....

It was in the fair office that I first met Alan Jackson -- before many people knew who he was. I met Billy Ray Cyrus and it was at our fair that he fell in love with a cute little filly -- or maybe it was a gelding -- that he bought and had shipped back to his home. I met Reba, Clint Black, and Alabama. I was just a small town girl, wide eyed and amazed.

Don Klingler, the fair manager, hired me to write the fairbook for several years and gave me an opportunity to spread my wings as a writer.

Whether I visit the fair physically or not, I am there in spirit with them for that week in August: 17-25th.

Recipe for Lemon Shake-Ups
I found this at

1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup crushed ice
Thoroughly juice the lemon half and cut into quarters. Put both fruit and juice into a 16-oz. disposable glass. Add the sugar, water, and crushed ice. Stir drink by pouring back and forth between two glasses several times. Add very cold water to fill glass, then enjoy.

NOTE: If you have a glass with a lid or can cover tightly, a good shake, shake, shake also works.


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