Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sky Diva - Diver

Last week, we took the kids to the Lake County Fair because, well, it was Kids’ Night.

Everyone else must’ve had the same idea though. The parking lots were all packed and we had to park at the very outskirts of the fairgrounds. This was fine with us because we got to ride the tractor-pulled wagon all the way up to the gate.

Before we even walked all the way inside, we were met with sensory overload:
•The smells of onions, popcorn, candy apples, peanuts and cotton candy, the diesel smoke from the tractors and the exhaust from the motorbikes, the smell of hay and horses and cows;
•The sights of the flashing lights, the blue ribbons, the rainbow of colors of stuffed animals and flags and quacking rubber ducks;
•The sounds of the screams, shouts, laughter and crying of little kids, the mooing of cows, the dinging of rides and calling of the game attendants, the sharp pops of balloons;
•The gritty feeling on our skin, the warmth of the setting sun, the wind in our faces – it was the perfect night to be outside at the fair.

After waiting in line to get our wristbands, our first stop was The Himalaya ride – the mini roller coaster that goes around in circle. Car 1 and Car 8 were out of order, so the girls chose to ride in Car 13 (of course.)

I always loved The Himalaya as a child – I remember riding it over and over while they played “Sweet Child of Mine” as loud as you could stand it over the loudspeakers. This time, however, all I could hear was Josie singing “All My Exes Live in Texas” and “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” to the top of her little lungs.

Then, as they bounded out of the little white car, they saw it: the piece de resistance – The Sky Diva.

Its glittering flashing beauty called to them from across the midway. Its giant wheel and many colored cars signaled the siren call of twinkling wonder. To them, it signified all that childhood is supposed to be – fun, adventure, thrills, beauty. To me, it looked like a 6-story rattletrap of death.

Josie and her dad (against my wishes) decided that they were going to ride it.

As we stood in line, I watched the faces of the poor souls that had gone on before us. I pointed one out to Josie: “That person looks terrified. Are you sure you want to get on that thing?” She shaded her eyes, squinted up and said, “You mean that girl who just grinned and waved at us?”

My husband said to me, “Let them learn to be afraid of their own things… just because you’re afraid of them doesn’t mean they have to be.” He has a point, but still! The thing was scary. (I did, however, make a mental note not to force my weird fears of bats, clowns, house centipedes, waterslides, Ferris wheels, spontaneous combustion and dragonflies onto their little psyches.)

The rest of us stood and watched as Josie and her dad climbed into the creaking, swinging cage. It didn’t make me feel any better when the attendant had to hammer it shut with his bare fist.

The cage proceeded to flip over pretty much immediately and then zoomed them straight up to the precipice of no return. For a few moments we observed the ghastly spectacle, but I couldn’t stand to hear my 7-year-old screaming and yelling while suspended by nothing more than a rusty old bolt, 75 feet up in the air and UPSIDE DOWN.

I finally dragged myself away from the giant wheel of destruction with the remainder of my family, and we headed over to the inflatable jumpy house to pass the time. Jedidiah couldn’t go in but he didn’t seem to care much. He liked looking through the mesh sides and watching his sisters jump. It was hard to keep my mind off Josie and the horrors at the booth next door, but when she met up with us a few minutes later, Josie was super-excited: “YES! That thing was AWESOME!”

I was just glad to see her in one piece.

They went down the giant pink slide three times each, rode the merry-go-round, the swan boats, the big pirate boat and the big spinny thing that holds you on by sheer gravity.

Jedidiah spent a great deal of time in the Metroparks tent, meeting the K-9 ranger dog and sitting on a tractor. They also met lots of mules and donkeys and watched one of the horse shows in the ring. They loved a new attraction called “Pony Petting Time,” where for $1.50 you could pet, brush, feed and groom a pony.

We ate pizza, cheese-on-a-stick (one of the great inventions of the 20th century,) lemonade and ranch and bacon fries. We tripped on power cords, got dust in our teeth, stood in giant lines at the bathrooms and spent $5 trying to win a thirteen cent goldfish. Inspired by some of the displays, we decided to enter some stuff next year to try and win our own blue ribbons.

Josie, coated in a mixture of sugar, dirt and mule germs, summed it up on the trek back to our car 5 hours later: “This was great. I wish we could stay here forever.”

Well, maybe not forever. But once a year at least, the fair really is a magical place when you’re a kid.

And maybe (except for The Sky Diva part) even when you’re a grown-up.

--from my 8/26/12 article for