My first experience with county fairs didn’t come until I was in high school. My boyfriend and his group of friends raced demolition derby cars and I would spend my summers anticipating him winning as I stood and watched from the sidelines. I’d watch each heat of cars as the mud would go flying in the air praying there wasn’t a fire and that he would finish the night’s derby safely without having to jump out of his car. I don’t remember having a bad view of the people at the fair but I remember viewing them as hillbillies. Now before you go judging me on this, I have never thought of a hillbilly as a negative thing. Honestly. The people I met at the fair were always kind to me and struck me as the kind of people who didn’t care at all what they looked like. They were friendly, would chat with you all night long and weren’t stuck up at all. I liked them and I enjoyed spending time around them. I genuinely loved going to county fairs with him and watching him race. Meeting new people from all around the state was a lot of fun for me with him by my side. I loved hearing the stories they would tell of the effort they put into preparing these cars and watching their children play at the fair as they raced. My husband and his buddies spent all summer getting their cars ready and racing them and I took part in as much of it as he and his friends would let me. I wanted to soak up as much of him as I could and if that meant helping get derby cars ready, I did it, if that meant going to fairs, I rode along. At one point my friend and I even made shirts that said “Save a car, ride a driver”. I know, we were classy. But it was a fun part of my life, hey fair people….hillbillies, whatever you want to call them, are fun people! You get to hang out with animals, watch demolition derbies, go on rides, eat delicious food (nobody said it was healthy) , watch the kids play on the playground, and just have a good time together. It reminds me of the atmosphere at the campground. Many nights we would spend all day driving to a fair, wait in line to check in, walk around eating funnel cakes and drinking lemonade shake ups, go on some rides, watch the guys participate in the derby, drive half way home, stop at a Monicals for pizza, drive the rest of the way home, and then camp out at someones house and sit around a fire and have a few beers. And so went many of my summers after high school.
Once we had kids of our own, the demo derby lifestyle has taken a backseat and we haven’t been to any county fairs in quite a while as our own children aren’t old enough to participate as far as showing livestock or projects independently yet. But this year we were determined not to miss out on the county fair. My husband really wanted to take our kids to see the rodeo. I hadn’t even seen a rodeo before so I was pretty excited to be going for the first time. As the day went on, our chances of getting to the rodeo weren’t looking too great. The temperature was 90+ degrees, it was VBS week at our church so we were all exhausted, I had a terrible migraine, so we were thinking maybe we better sit this one out. After a bit of back and forth, we decided it’s a once a year thing and we were going, so we packed a bunch of water, were prepared for the reality that we may have to come right back home and made the drive to the county fair.
We got there, looked at all the livestock, let our kiddos see some of the entries of their friends and then found some seats to watch the rodeo. Now the rodeo was awesome. So cool. My kids loved it, it was entertaining, they mixed it up with barrel racing, bull riding and cattle roping. There was a portion of the show where the kids got to go out and have the opportunity to race and try to win a bike. But that wasn’t the best part of the show. To me, the best part of the show, was where all these HARD working men and women and children…these hillbillies, people call them. These families who have children who are disciplined enough to rise early and feed and care for animals, work on projects like cooking, sewing, training animals and building . They stood for the flag, they sang the national anthem together, they prayed together. They stood in silence and honored men and women who have served in the military together. They stood and honored men and women who are serving as police officers together. It brought tears to my eyes. All these people had to get up the next day and go to work and do life, but they were brought together by this commonality. They were proud to be American, they were praying together and honoring those who were serving together. It wasn’t a holiday, it’s just what they do because it’s right. That’s why I like spending time at the county fair around hillbillies, hard-working American families…..love them. They were there that night just being themselves because they don’t know how to be anything else.