“Fair fever” affects a lot of people. It is not only limited to youth who exhibit their animals or finished projects but also to vendors, business exhibitors, and to those who enjoy carnival rides, fair food and grandstand shows.
On occasion, I have written about personal experiences concerning involvement such as exhibiting 4-H projects at the Manitowoc County Fair in my youthful days, cattle at the 1948 Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee, or working as an Extension agent at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
A recent phone call from Wayne Rasmussen, now 93 years old and a resident of Marshfield, reminded me of an ostrich race that he and I participated in at the Marshfield fair along with two other contestants in 1962. He represented the jaycees as their president and I represented the Wood County Extension Office. We were instructed to race to the first turn but I was designated to have the runaway bird that would hit top speeds of 40 mph in a sulky race cart steered by placing a broom on either side of its head as their eyes are located on each side. We crossed the finish line unscathed.
In our recent conversations I reminded Wayne that that was a scary experience and I would never do it again, although it was a crowd pleaser to those in the grandstand.
My phone conversation with him brought to mind another harrowing experience I had at the Richland County Fairground in Richland Center in 1952. The Korean War was in full swing. I was a member of the National Guard during my college days at Platteville and our unit was assigned to provide additional security at the fairground. We did not have any disturbances during our allotted time, which ended around 10 p.m. Following our assignment a group of us did what a normal group of single college students dressed in military apparel would do: cruise the midway looking for single girls. We lucked out and came across a number of girls with similar thoughts, looking for boys.
When the fair closed that evening we proceeded to take the girls home. Arriving at the home of my “pickup” I walked her to her house entrance, only to be greeted by the father who stood in the doorway with a shotgun in his hands.
There was no parting kiss or exchange of words and I don’t remember if I walked backwards or turned my back on the protective father. As I think back on which of the above was the scariest I think I would go the second mile with the ostrich rather than be the innocent soldier looking down the barrel of a shotgun.
I continue to enjoy attending fairs and always look forward to the Clark County Fair in Neillsville and the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield. No scary rides, no gimmicks, just fair foods, ice cream and time to view exhibits and visit.
Experiences of the past are just passing memories.