Karsen Colby hangs out with a clown before going to see the horses at the Clinton County Fair.
MORRISONVILLE — I scolded myself for forgetting my sunglasses as I walked around the corner and into the Clinton County Fair.
I winced against the sun’s glare, sweat dripping down the center of my back, my armpits wet.
To my right, a towering snow cone and candy apple, a pair of sweet giants, offered no shade as their flapping pink and yellow flags taunted me with an elusive breeze.
But as I glared at Pizza Hut and sticky-faced children gobbling up cotton candy, my mood improved. To my left, excited screams came from a nearby ride and I smiled and recalled fairs of my youth, begging my parents for one more ticket for a final ride.
I turned to walk down an alley of games and persistent carnies when I noticed the giant stuffed dairy cow staring at me from above the water game. I thought for sure he would wink, privy to carnival secrets I could not fathom, but when he remained wide-eyed, I walked on and passed the hall of mirrors, something that consistently causes my chest to tighten each time I see it.
Still, I was excited about the Clinton County Fair, with its promises of animal shows, bumper cars, rides, the demolition derby, kettle corn, chainsaw sculptors, North Country’s Got Talent and a host of entertainment, including master hypnotist Michael Blaine and country singer Hunter Hayes.
And, most importantly, fried dough.
I set off to find a fried dough stand but halted at a sign for a 100-pound rat and headless woman. I knew a live headless woman was impossible, but I wondered about the rat.
I recalled, early in my journalism career, covering a rat infestation at the home of a woman living off social security who could no longer cover her trash bill as costs and taxes rose. A gray quilt of rats surrounded much of her property and some of them were monstrous.
But 100 pounds? I decided I didn’t need to uncover the truth that badly and pressed on.
“Are you with the news?”
I turned toward the voice behind me to find three children playing Beer Bust or break a bottle. A woman and the carny running the game watched the children hurling baseballs like big league pitchers in training, shouting and bouncing on the tips of their toes at the rare sound of a shattered bottle.
“This is his first year,” said Tammy LaMora, pointing at her son, five-year-old Brady, as the boy sent a fast ball between two bottles. “He wanted to play the game. It’s fun, except it’s very expensive.”
Brady’s older brother, Kyle, preferred the bumper cars.
“It’s fun running into people.”
Then, the 13 year old picked up a baseball and fired away, his first pitch greeted by exploding glass.
Kyle glanced at me without smiling and picked up another ball.
I turned to locate fried dough but a chocolate covered banana stopped me in my tracks as my belly rumbled.
Fortunately for my wallet I spotted a mother and father with their little girl in a pink cowboy hat, sitting at a picnic bench and eating. A small-town America fair shot tied in a bow of cuteness if I ever saw one.
“We came here for the 4-H show,” said Walt Wnuk as I sat with the family.
“We like to come here because there is a lot to offer the whole family,” Michelle Wnuk said.
“And I like the horses,” chirped six-year-old Abby. “I’ve been riding two years.”
After I took the photo I thanked them and turned to leave when Abby smiled and said, “And I ride the carousel. It has horses.”
I made a pit stop at Southwest Design to purchase Thai pants for my fiancé, Erica, and briefly spoke with Yvonne Swaby, who was running the shop for her boyfriend. She said she likes interacting with people and prefers fairs over working in the store.
Nearby, Kristena Colby and her son, Karsen, were heading to the horses when the boy struck up a conversation with a wandering clown. His mom said they hit the fair yearly to see the horses.
I snapped a couple photos, my stomach demanding attention, and dashed over to the fried dough stand, placed my order, covered it in sugar and sat down at a picnic table and ate. My tongue and stomach danced a jitterbug, bowing after the last bite when a German sausage in the hands of a kid skipping by demanded an encore.
I stood up, adjusted my waistline and set off on another adventure.