Thursday, July 16, 2009

ghosts at the county fair

I don't know exactly how to approach this county fair thing. I mean, when I was a kid there were no opportunities to show off my prize livestock or vegetables. City kids don't know about these things. At our yearly block party, I gorged myself on candies and barbeque and baked goods. Ohhh, my stomach was full of peanut butter cookies and hot dogs and smarties. Then I'd slip off my shoes and bounce around in the jumping jack until my regurgitating reflex made itself known, at which point I'd roll out of the huge balloon, chug a coke and go find the kids playing ghost in the graveyard.

All of the same elements are here at the Tuolumne County Fair. There is the gorging and the rides, the kids playing games, but the things that are different - the prize cows raised by middle schoolers, the gigantic vegetables, a product of many months of careful watering and turning - are significant. These people here are country people, or they used to be. This was a venue for them to show off their season's treasures, the let loose and paint the town red. We have adopted this in the city, except we just do the celebrating, not the working in the fields part.

Although this fair has come along way since its inception (now the major events show the grotesque strength of machines in the form of truck pulls and demolition derbys), the ghost of its past enthralls me. There was a time in America when most people outside of cities worked on the land. They came once a year to show off their labor, to mingle with their neighbors and to let their bellies hang out after gorging themselves on their neighbor's meat. I hope this ghost doesn't disappear for good.

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