when i was growing up in austin, we went to the mower county fair every august. it was a magical experience as a kid growing up. after we moved to new london when i was 14, we went to one kandiyohi county fair and that was it; it wasn’t a free fair, and it was 20 minutes away in willmar. nate and i had gone to the benton county fair in st cloud for a few years, but it never held a candle to the golden standard of my youth.
this week, the winona county fair has taken over the small town of st charles, with cars lining otherwise empty streets and fairgoers mingling til 11 p.m. i’ve been three times. (and had minidonuts and lemonade three times.)
it made me kind of wistful for something that never was. for some reason, the fair to me is for high schoolers, with 4-H entrants and high school sweethearts holding hands on the ferris wheel and girls thinking they’re hot stuff strutting through the midway.
the last regular county fair i’d been to was at age 14 – just at the cusp of prime fair-going age. then it stopped. the fair was never something my friends in high school at NL-S talked about attending; maybe it was the cost? maybe it was too far away? and not that i had a boyfriend in high school with whom to hold hands and steal kisses on the ferris wheel, but i feel like it’s something i missed.
at dusk with the lights blinking on and the smell of fried foods on the air and shiny sundries beckoning, the thought of being 17 and young and hopeful and maybe in like with a boy who’s holding your hand seems like the perfect way to spend a summer evening.
i may have missed the peak time for a nerdy midwestern girl’s fairgoing experience, but it’s still a great way to spend a summer evening.