The grounds are empty. Occasionally, the gravel track shows some signs of life as people walk laps. The grandstand sits empty in front of the track, appearing decrepit, weathered from the decades. There are a handful of stalls with words such as “poultry,” “swine,” and “cattle,” row after row of gates and pens. On any given day, this area is quiet, appearing as a ghost town. But there is one week every year; the grounds come to life.
It’s fair week.
Every summer, my family makes the drive from northern Kentucky to my parents’ house in central Pennsylvania. Fair week is the highlight of my children’s summer, as it was mine growing up. Living in the same house my grandparents lived in, my children relive my childhood this week.
The years pass, but there is constant in this week. The grounds open for a walkthrough. There is anticipation in what rides return. We sip the sweet lemonade, watching the vendor shake it before our eyes. The clumps of sugar stick to our teeth. Every smell, the not-so-pleasant smell coming from the animals to the aroma of fried food is a signature scent. Though loud and overwhelming at times, the noises are the sounds we embrace as we know the area will fade back into quiet until the next year. Announcements blaring over loudspeakers, concerts are heard across town, and the roar of engines from the truck pull is welcoming. The sounds coming from the rides and screams are thrilling.
The week begins with a parade. Bands from surrounding counties, floats from local organizations, and the Shriners give life to this sleepy town as they make their way to the grandstand. The crowning of the fair queen takes place. Fireworks on the final night celebrate the week. There is sadness in knowing our favorite week is over, but we know the fair will be back the next year.
Except for this year, there is no fair.
When the schools closed in March, I looked forward to the summer when life would potentially return to normal. I clung to hope; hope of a typical summer. As the months went on and summer began, it became evident that a return to normal was a dream.
First, my daughter and mine’s trip to Texas fell through. Then the announcement came. The 2020 fair canceled. I can’t remember a year without the fair. There are few guarantees in life. The Clearfield County Fair in Clearfield, Pennsylvania was mine.
For many of us, our plans fell through. Many canceled their vacations or postponed them. On Memorial Day, the pools were quiet surrounding the unknown. Our favorite local places slowly opened, only to those who made reservations. There are no baseball games. While parks reopened and some took family vacations, the coronavirus impacts have affected us all in one way or another.
For now, I find joy in the little things. There is plenty we love about summer that has not changed. Popsicles on the porch, the sounds of crickets chirping and fireflies as darkness sets in, splashing around in the inflatable pool, neighborhood walks, summer storms, and sun-kissed skin. We are missing out on a lot, but we cherish what we do have. I have a new appreciation for these lazy days.
We can take comfort in knowing this is not forever. The fair is not gone forever. Some day, the grounds will reopen, and I will have an even deeper appreciation for this place I love.