The Crawford County Fair starts Sunday.
It’s one of the few things I write about that is actually older than I. And I like that.
This is the 159th edition of this county fair, and once again fruits and vegetables, animals, crafts, canned and preserved food, tractors and Crawford County’s busiest youth will invade Bucyrus and the county fairgrounds off Whetstone Street.
Growing up in Galion, I made it to the fair just about every year. I was never in 4H, nor did I own horses, cattle, nor pigs, so the draw to me was different that it was to other kids in Crawford County.
I liked the food and the games.
I did, for a time growing up, have rabbits and even a couple ducks (or were they chickens?) at the Kent homestead on Summit Street. But never did any of my pets make it to the fair. In fact, we didn’t have a lot of luck with our rabbits and ducks (or chickens). They lived out their short lives in some pens in the back of an old garage and then we buried them next door in another piece of property ma and pa owned. I remember none of their names, nor their colors nor anything else much about them. I do remember crawling around on the grass with some carrots and lettuce, trying to get the rabbits to eat. But that’s pretty much it.
Except for this one little story, told over and over again by my parents.
We named two of our rabbits Aunt Polly and Uncle Red, after some real relatives from the Wooster area.
One, day, as mom tells the story, she called my dad, who was at work at the high school, where he was either a teacher or guidance counselor — I think he was teaching biology at the time — and left a message about the untimely and premature deaths of Polly and Red.
Mom was pretty upset, because she knew how her kids cared about the rabbits and that we’d be heartbroken. And she kind of liked them, too.
Anyway, she was blubbering and crying up a storm as she made the phone call to the high school and apparently, the part of the message that didn’t come through clearly was that Polly and Red were rabbits.
So, either a note was sent to dad, or one of the secretaries or an administrator ran down to dad’s classroom and informed him that Polly and Red had died overnight. The word “rabbit” was not included in that message.
When dad got that grim, fateful message, he rushed out the door, got his car out of the parking lot and rushed home, where — as the story goes — he screeched to a halt in our stone-covered alley and ran into the house to see how his wife was doing.
Well, Mom was still pretty much a mess and very emotional. Dad asked her what had happened: Were Polly and Red in a car accident? Did their home and restaurant burn down? How did they die?
Mom kept looking at dad like he was nuts. Car accident? Fire? What was he talking about?
Mom answered: “What are you talking about. I don’t know how they died. When I went to the pens to feed them this morning they were dead.”
And only then did my fater realize it wasn’t his real aunt and uncle who had died, it was the rabbits. And then — a little embarrassed — dad slinked back to the high school to finish his workday.
So, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
The moral of the story: Don’t let your kids name your pets after living relatives.
Anyway, back to the county fair.
For me, scents and aromas trigger memories. And the Crawford County Fair is filled with scents and aromas.
There is the smell of fresh cut grass in the fields used as parking lots. If it’s been a rainy week, there is the god-awful smell of disgusting, slimy mud.
When you walk through the gates, you’re immediately inundated with the smell of food: grease from the french fries, funnel cakes and corn dogs that are fried up throughout the day; sausages, onions and peppers cooked up on a big griddle; cotton candy, and all those lemons as you walk past the lemon shake-up trailer.
There is the smell of oil — and sometimes vomit— from the carnival rides; and fuel and overheated engine parts and steam from the demolition derby.
The animals have their own smells: fresh hay in the horse barns and dairy barns. Rabbits — to me — have a distinctive smell. There is a funkier kind of smell when you walk into the pig barns, but believe it or not, it’s not an unpleasant odor. It smells of life on a farm, which, having grown up in the big metropolis of Galion, is not something I experience often.
But there are other momories.
I remember once — maybe in 6th grade, or junior high — Wally Lucas and I and three or four other people decided to ride our bikes from Galion to the county fair. This was way before this generation of fancy bicycles. If you had a three-speed with hand brakes you were envied. Anyway, we had our Schwinn stingrays and some other larger bikes. I’m not even certain we all had bikes. One of two of us may have ridden on the handlebars as we made that trek to the fair.
We parked the bikes outside the gate — no chains or locks were necessary — spent five or six hours walking around the fair, looking at the animals, flirting with the exotic girls from far off places like North Robinson and New Washington; and snacking on fair food. I think we finally made it home to Galion around 9 p.m. We never told our parents what we’d done … until after the fact.
But that was a fun day.
So, the fair starts Sunday. A fair schedule appears in this special section, but some of the highlights include the demolition derby Saturday night; the Fair Jam with 7eventh Time Down and Among the Thirsty on Monday night; KOI drag racing Tuesday night; harness racing Wednesday and Thursday; a tractor/truck poll Friday and a stock truck poll Saturday afternoon.
In between are crafts and food judging, animal shows, an antique tractor parade; the Showman of Showman competition, the livestock sale and more.
So if you get a chance, head to Bucyrus and take in your own sights, sounds and smells at the fairgrounds and create your own memories.
Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Morrow County Sentinel and Bellville Star. If you have comments or questions or story ideas, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.