Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fair’ly exciting

I left work early yesterday so Ella and I could attend the Georgia National Fair, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

The fair is a lavish event, with rides, exhibits, livestock shows, and, of course, the wonderful fair food that usually smells a lot better than it tastes. As we walked around, however, I had a feeling of déjà vu, and realized that everything is and was the same from the previous year, and the year before that, and probably the year before that. The local magician occupied his usual spot; the climbing wall hadn’t moved; the RVs and portable buildings were back to back; and the exact same food vendors were in the exact same spots. Bacon was big on the menus this year, which made me wonder if the losers from the racing pigs exhibit, also in the same spot, ever leave the fair alive.
Bored juggler didn't bother
dressing well for his performance
Oh, some of the shows had changed. Free shows included a juggler, who looked bored, and couldn’t ring the make-shift KFC bucket with his rubber chicken canon no matter how hard he tried. The Wild West Show had morphed into the SwashChucklers! Comedy Pirate Show, but I could tell it was the same actors on the same set, only painted in a pirate theme.

Also, the Fifth Dimension played on the center stage to a large crowd, but if anyone was expecting Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., the original stars of the group, they were disappointed. Only one original member graced the stage, but they did a decent version of “Up, Up, and Away.”

Paid concerts featured Lady Antebellum and Jennifer Nettles. Sales for Nettles’ Saturday concert have been so poor that they gave away pairs of tickets to military personnel.

Don’t get me wrong, fair organizers do a bang up job, but there was no sense of excitement like I used to get when I attended the Georgia State Fair as a child in Macon.

Now, that was a fair. It was THE fair in the state, and had been since the late 1800s. Yes, that’s right … it moved to Macon’s Central City Park after the Civil War. According to legend, the kazoo was developed in Macon, and was introduced at the Georgia State Fair. Local school children even got a holiday on the first day of the fair.

I can still remember the thrill of crossing the 2nd Street Bridge on the way to the fair, and seeing the Ferris Wheel in the distance. Dad worked in the dispatch room for the Macon Police Department, and ensured local traffic officers paved the way for the 18-wheelers carrying the fair’s signature rides to enter the park. For his efforts, he was usually awarded a Golden Pass, which functioned like an all-you-can-ride armband. He would just show the pass to the ride operators, and my brothers and I rode for free.

Sadly, though, the creation of the state-sponsored Georgia National Fair, held in October as well, forced hard times onto the privately run Georgia State Fair, which moved to spring to avoid the competition. Central City Park also got a reputation for being unsafe, another nail in the fair’s coffin, and finally the fair folded its Macon tent for the last time, and moved to the Atlanta area, where it just concluded its yearly run on Sunday.

I know my perceptions as a child are different than my perceptions as an adult, and I know that the Georgia National Fair is a superior fair to the Georgia State Fair. Still, it would be wonderful to walk the sawdust midway again; to be scared to ride the Bullet, and settle on riding the Avalanche instead; to win a stretched Coca-Cola bottle; and to feel the excitement in the air as only a child can.

Because I was out chasing memories and eating overpriced fair food last night, I didn’t get to pack my day’s sales, which stressed me out a little when I got home late. However, watching Ella enjoy her $5 ice cream cone while “pirates” made corny jokes, and thinking how much Mom would have enjoyed hearing “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the Fifth Dimension, made it worthwhile.

Hopefully, though, I won’t have to explain it to my customers.


  1. They say "you can't go back" and it's true. When my husband and I were dating, we spent many evenings together at Playland in Rye NY. We would play miniature golf and arcade games, have a knish or an ice cream, ride through the Tunnel of Love and just walk on the boardwalk by the sound. We went back in our later years to show it to our daughter, and man the changes were unbelievable. It just wasn't the same. We were excited though to see the some of park featured in the move "Big" with Tom Hanks when he finds the fortune telling machine at the end. That's Playland!

    1. Did you find the actual fortune telling machine? :)