County Fair

I do enjoy going to the county fair (  Now, I live in an essentially urban county (yes, Arlington is in suburban Washington, D.C., but it has a fairly urban feel to it).  So our county fair doesn’t have livestock exhibits (apart from the piglet races and pony rides – but no county residents bringing their prize cows and goats to show off, and no horse show).  There’s the midway and the carnival rides.  There’s the county fair food.  And there are a lot of indoor exhibitors and performers.

Once I entered a baby set that I had knit and I won a blue ribbon.  That was pretty cool.  I only managed to get myself organized enough to do that the one time.  Still, it was fun, and who knows, I might one day again.  There are plenty of categories.

When I was younger and still riding horses regularly, I went to horse shows at a lot of county fairs (and possibly some state fairs, I’m not sure), and I have a lot of ribbons – including two blue ribbons from the Monmouth County Fair in New Jersey (and two silver trophies!) for my troubles.

Did I mention that I love going to the county fair?  I think so.  And this is the season.  County fairs in August.  State fairs in September.  All over the country.

Tonight, my 20-year-old and I went to the county fair.  I’ve been without Don before, but that was usually because I was volunteering at an exhibit at the fair.  I don’t think that I’ve been to visit the fair without him since we’ve been married.

We signed up to be foster parents at the county fair.  Tonight I stopped by the Arlington County Foster Care exhibit and spoke to one of the social workers there.  She’d called the house after Don died.  She asked about my girls, and remembered the children we’ve adopted and the foster child who stayed with us after she’d aged out of foster care (they’re like that – they stay connected).  It was nice to have that support.  I told her I’d probably be back eventually, but not right now.  It all seems to happen at the fair.

We ran into many friends and neighbors.  We pushed our pin into the giant map of Arlington (it’s big enough to be able to put the pin in my actual lot- but now no one else on my block can do it!).

It made me feel…normal.  Oh, there are changes from year-to-year.  My daughter noticed that there were fewer exhibitors this year.  I agreed.  They moved the piglet races.  Now they’re next to the pony rides.  Oh, and they moved the pony rides just a little bit.  But that might have happened a few years ago.  The “we can cure homosexuality” people weren’t there – FINALLY! That’s definitely a change for the better. On the whole it feels normal.

There’s a connection with county fairs.  It’s a long connection, and not just to this county.  I think because there are so many things that are at every county fair.  There are always competitions.  I have my one blue ribbon from my one entry in the county fair (apart from my horse show ribbons).  I’m a total amateur.  Don’s grandmother was the county fair champion.

We have a family cabin in Cascade, ID.  Now, when I say that it’s a family cabin, I mean that Don’s grandparents, his parents, and aunts and uncles built the cabin about 55 years ago.  Now I own a share of it along with Don’s cousins.  All over the walls by the kitchen are blue ribbons from the Valley County Fair.  It’s possible that one or two of them aren’t blue, but my memory is that they’re all blue.  And they all belonged to Don’s grandmother.  For preserves, and pies, and all sorts of things that she cooked up on her wood-burning stove.  Wow.

I would have loved to know her.  I would have loved to learn from her.  Arlington County, VA is a long way from Valley County, ID, and I don’t just mean in miles.  Still, there’s a connection.  There are blue ribbons.  And I’m willing to bet greasy fair food.  People wandering around and checking out the exhibits.  Kids wanting to go on more rides.

It’s summer.  Life goes on.  In some ways I’m surprised at how normal I feel in a normal situation – at the fair, and in some ways I’m not that surprised.  My life in general hasn’t been very normal lately, but beyond my own life things go on the way they go on.  It’s good.

In the midst of the worst of grief, we wonder how the world can go on when we feel so awful.  But the world has to go on.  The world has to be ready for us for when things get even just a little bit better.  So my whole life hasn’t returned to normal, but I went to the county fair.  That was a normal thing.  It was fun.  I had lemonade (I always have lemonade).

Oh, and I’ve made a tentative date with a couple of my daughters for the end of September.  We’re going to the Virginia State Fair.   I wonder if I should bake a pie…

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  That’s my mite.


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