Gone, But Never To Be Forgotten
The sights, sounds, and smells of the 2004 Great Frederick Fair are relegated to memory, another wonderful eight days spent between East Patrick Street and Highland Street.
As the years go by, my connection to this place becomes more important, and things I had previously taken for granted become much more significant.
I attended the Fair every day last week except Monday. That attendance record was my second best effort, topped only by the years I worked for Mayor Jim Grimes, when I attended the Fair every single day, principally because that was the only way to get things done with him.
I spent most of my time in Republican Party tent, surrounded by friends and visitors looking for campaign goodies from the Bush team. These tents are the parties' best chance to get the word out about the upcoming election, and during the week, most of our county elected officials made it a point to stop by.
The GOP will tell you they had the busiest tent (it seemed like it to me), but I'm certain the Democrats would make the same claim. Lots of signs, stickers, balloons, and other election paraphernalia made it into the hands of would-be voters.
Voters had a chance to test drive the new touch screen polling machine, and confirm or dispel the fears reported in the news media. I personally like voting on the machine much better than the old way, and don't feel the need to be handed a confirmatory piece of paper, but that's just me!
Gov. Robert Ehrlich was true to his word and made a return visit to the Fair. Watching him wander the grounds reminds one of a rock star, complete with a huge entourage of hangers-on. Lest you think me above it, I missed the chance to participate due to a committee hearing in Annapolis. Trust me I would have been right in there had I not had business out-of-town.
He stopped by the Democrat tent, although the reception was something less than warm, I've been told. The significance was that the former governor, Parris Glendening, rarely showed up at all, and never visited the Republicans.
On Wednesday, the Secretary of Agriculture (Lew Reilly) and Undersecretary Dr. John Brooks stopped by the fairgrounds. Dr. Brooks, a prominent veterinarian, also took a turn as the vet "on call" in the birthing center.
In addition to the political aspect, Fair week was full of great memories to tide us over until next year. As a matter of fact, the only downside was the difficulties in finding a parking place anywhere near the fairgrounds if you arrived later than 5 p.m.
All of my favorite food vendors were there again, from the Vigilant Hose Company's crab cakes to the Carroll Manor fried chicken. Commercial vendors always get my money, too! Tucan-T's lemonade, Red & Ethel Layton's sausage, and a roast beef platter from Hemp's of Jefferson (remember, Railroad Days is coming for you Hemp's fans out there) were all contributors to the expanding Weldon waistline this year.
No, it isn't all about food. I stopped counting the number of yardsticks seen wandering away from the Fair, but it had to be several forests worth! Flashing light-emitting diode jewelry was very popular, but not so attractive. Also less than enchanting were the t-shirts and sweats with silk-screened admonitions suggesting actions that appear anatomically impossible to this correspondent!
I always stand in awe of the young farmers who raise and show their own animals. This year, I got to watch the animal auction with particular interest as my Kiwanis Club bid on several animals. What a great lesson in community support, as prominent citizens bid hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on these animals.
That thought triggers a rant. I hear some elected officials and community "watchdogs" complain about the "good old boys." Without commenting on the over-used gender bias, it does seem a little ridiculous that these same old boys are good enough to dig deep into their wallets to pay these young farmers for the product of their hard work, yet we vilify them for being politically active.
Maybe the crowd of complainers will open their checkbooks and show the same concern for the community instead of just pointing fingers and opening their yaps! Then again, maybe not.
I didn't venture onto the Midway, mostly because the Weldon children are now old enough that I can spend most of my money on food. Really though, the animal freak show is a little creepy. The recorded voice urging you to see the two headed snake and goat with three horns gave me the willies.
Also, the clown dunk served as a major discouragement from traveling down the Midway. That unfunny "gentleman" called out to a fat guy with a cell phone, telling him it wasn't a hot dog. I chuckled until I realized I was retrieving my answering machine messages, and Bozo was pointing at me. If only I'd had a gun...oops, that's another story!
The photos, flower arrangements, and sewing stuff are all nice, but I admit I don't appreciate them as much as I should. My grandmother used to knit sweaters for us, and I wish I had understood then how hard she worked for us.
I can walk all the way through the pig barns without holding my nose, but it is fun to watch folks run to the midway point in the barns, gulping oxygen when they get outside. Really fun to do on those hot days, whew!
So another Great Frederick Fair ends, replete with memories that will tide us over until next year. My old friend Jim Grimes gets to rest, along with the others on the Fair Board and their dedicated week-long workforce. No sadness, just a sense of anticipation until next September.
My hat's off to the Fair Board of Managers, Becky Brashear and her very talented crew, the vendors, the performers, and the farm families who toil so hard that our lives might be so enriched and rewarded.
God Bless Frederick County!