The Warren County 4-H Fair. It was THE social event of every summer.
I don't remember ever not going to the fair. I can close my eyes and remember exactly where everything stood, and probably still does. The food building, with the aroma of chicken BBQ in the air, the long tables and photos of the 4-H fair queen candidates pinned to the bulletin board at the back of the building... the Junior Leaders ice cream stand, where if you knew someone working the booth that day, you could swindle a free cone... the Bingo tent... the commercial building, where you always had to go through and get free stuff, whether you needed and new yard stick or not... the livestock buildings... the midway...
When I was young, my friend Kathy and I would go around telling everyone we were sisters. We thought we deceived everyone and found it wildly amusing. It never occurred to us that everyone knew every family in the whole county, so the odds of actually fooling someone were slim to none.
Then came the teen years. Weeks in advance of the fair, my friends and I carefully planned the outfits we would wear each night. With our sites set on a whatever boys we thought interesting at the time, we would arrive at the fair looking our absolute best. Who a person met up with during the fair was a huge deal. That sort of socially set the table for the rest of the summer and the beginning of the next school year. We crammed a whole summer's worth of courting into 5 precious days.
I was in 4-H for 9 years, and took all sorts of projects. I attempted to take Zeke, our basset hound, one year for dog obedience. Here is Zeke. Isn't he beautiful?
I wanted to blame the one and only red ribbon I was ever awarded on Aunt Sis. She hit Zeke with her Nova earlier that spring and his hind leg was in a splint. I couldn't possibly work with Zeke while he was recuperating! In reality, bassets are next to impossible to train and I was just plain lazy. I remember dragging the poor dog around the arena, when all he wanted to do was take in all the wonderful new smells.
I won a champion ribbon for something when I was around 12 years old... can't remember what. But I received this lovely suitcase and umbrella as an additional prize. I was quite the beauty, eh? And Mrs. Award Giver looks ever so happy about the presentation.
I wasn't into the livestock stuff the way my siblings were. I don't know why, because I was always jealous of the kids who got good ribbons for their pigs and cows, and received big bucks for them at the auction after the fair. By the time I came along 4-H started to branch out with the project categories. I took projects like Child Development, Photography and Personality (whatever that meant). Much to my mother's chagrin, I never took sewing. Side note: my mother could sew anything. She made me everything from holiday dresses to business suits to bathing suits. She was incredible. My motto: Why should I learn how to sew when Mom can?
But my sister did.
I'm sure I will get a phone call from her about the telling of this story, because I don't remember much of it other than what I've been told. Regardless, here it is.
Joyce is a little older than I am and was a teenager in 4-H by the time I was 5 years old or so. I don't know who talked her into doing such a thing, but she took on the project of making us matching jumpers. (It's killing me that I can't find the photo I have of the two of us, standing in Aunt Helen's yard, in our painstakingly stitched matching outfits!) When you take sewing in 4-H, you have to model what you have made. The livestock coliseum would be temporarily transformed for a fashion show, complete with wooden planks for a U-shaped runway. The story goes that when it came time for us to take our turn at the runway, I balked. There was no way I was walking out there. I can only imagine how angry Joyce was, because in all honesty, I was a brat. I was the spoiled youngest sibling that got away with murder and everybody - including me - knew it. I'm sure Joyce was fuming when she finally had to walk out by herself. Then right as she was about to reach the first turn, she heard an "Awe!" from the crowd. She turned to see me, barreling down the planks to catch up with her. I would like to thank my sister for not strangling me right then and there. If the tables were turned, I can't say I would have shown such restraint.
At the very end of our "fair years," one of our own became royalty. I kidded Lori a lot about this, but I was really proud and happy for her.
She went from showing pigs to being a queen.
Only at the county fair.