There’s something magical about the annual fall fair — the way it seems to be the official harbinger of … duh! … fall!
What I mean is … before those merry-go-round horses start prancing up and down and before the teenage screams accompany the whirling, twirling Zipper, it’s summer.
But after the fall fair has come and gone, the temperatures seem to drop precipitously and there’s something in the air that whispers “Make every day count, pal … because those snowsqualls and endless sidewalks that need shovelling are just around the corner!”
For about 10 years now my fall fair excursions have centred on our grandchildren. There’s nothing quite like seeing those simple, enduring attractions through the eyes of unspoiled youth.
The bumper cars, the cotton candy and the smell of fried onions wafting through the crisp fall air.
And then there’s the walk home … as the little ones chirp excitedly about their favourite ride and I trail slightly behind, my empty wallet spread open like a flayed flounder as I think, “No! C’mon … really! Where the heck did that hundred dollars go?”
My granddaughter Lauren spotted the towering ferris wheel as we approached the fair this year.
“Look, Grandpa! The ferris wheel!! Look how big it is! Will you take me on the ferris wheel when we get to the fair? Huh? Huh? Will you, Grandpa? Willya?”
My palms suddenly were sweaty. I’ve never been good at heights … especially heights constructed in a few hours by a group of men who have been driving a truck all night and whose powers of concentration may be somewhat diminished.
About half an hour later, as ride tickets grew soggy in an increasingly sweaty palm, we stood at the foot of the wheel. Lauren gazed upward. I chose not to.
Before I knew it, we were climbing aloft. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself. Lauren excitedly waved to Mommy and Grandma way down on the ground. I chose not to.
Then, of course, the inevitable part of wheel-riding came. We stopped at the very top. Our little brightly coloured gondola swayed in the wind.
“Why are we stopped, Grandpa?” Good question.
As the ride concluded (it was actually kind of neat!) I was touched by the tender way the grizzled carnie lifted Lauren out of her seat and gave her a semi-toothed smile.
Carnival workers have always kind of fascinated me. I mean … where do they all go after fall fair season? They have chosen a hard life … one with little opportunity for a family or any real personal life or the occasional lazy Sunday afternoon.
I bet it’s always Monday morning in a carnival workers’ life. If they’re not working the rides, collecting the tickets or pitching in when some unforeseen technical glitch presents itself, they are either breaking down or setting up a ride or driving a ride truck to the next date.
Carnies have been the butt of many jokes and snide comments over the years. I myself took a swipe at them just a few paragraphs ago. But I’d like to apologize.
I’d like to atone by saluting the carnies of the world.
They are the last of the rough-and-ready individuals who work hard and no doubt play hard and whose choice of lifestyle makes our annual fall fair extravaganzas possible!