Wednesday, August 8, 2001
By DAVE LEDER
News staff writer
The windchimes rattled ever so slightly as we made our way through the fairgrounds. A cool breeze whipped across the landscape while scattered raindrops began to obscure my vision through my sunglasses -- which I no longer needed.
"It can't rain now," I thought, "the rides haven't even started."
That was the kid in me talking. After all, every kid knows that the best part about a fair are the rides. But the raindrops didn't seem to spoil anyone's fun on this day -- including my own. Although I chose not to relive any past glories on the Gravitron, the Yo-Yo or the Sizzler, I walked away from the Hood River County Fair with a smile on my face.
Maybe it was little Richard -- not the singer -- playing on the big John Deere tractor. Perhaps it was seeing all the young ladies prepare their horses for the big 4-H competition. It could have been the cow corral where kids took turns parading a stubborn cow around the ring. Or the art and photography exhibits showcasing the bevy of local talent. The entire fair generated a feeling of community unity that I'm just beginning to grasp.
Also impressive was the antique car show -- and I'm not even much of a car guy. It's not every day you get to see a 1931 A-Model Ford, a tricked-out 1968 Camaro with all the trimmings, or a cavernous 1956 Cadillac with enough leg room for the entire Portland Trailblazers roster. The owner's comments said it all: "There's nothin' lackin' when you're Cadillacin'."
Many images stayed with me that day, but most importantly, I was reminded of the excitement of being a kid. Flash back 20 years to my first-ever county fair in Puyallup, Wash.:
I remember begging my mom for two bucks so I could get my face painted by a clown or maybe sneak a snowcone. I remember chomping on a caramel apple as I waited in a seemingly never-ending line for ride tickets. I remember being intrigued by all the enormous farm animals, wondering what they might do if I tried to pet them.
No doubt the Puyallup Fair has quadrupled in size since then, but in the days before Garth Brooks and the Backstreet Boys, the Puyallup had much the same feel as the Hood River County Fair, albeit on a larger scale. And just like the Puyallup was back in the '80s, the Hood River County Fair was a certifiable "Barrel of Fun."
The carnival rides stirred images of my not-so-distant childhood -- a roller coaster plunging into the night sky still conjures up goosebumps, as well as the car ride home.
"Mom, can we come back tomorrow?" I'd ask.
I'm sure more than a few parents had to field that question last week. Leaving was always the hardest part. As a kid, even though you're covered in cotton candy, taffy and dust, the last thing you want is to go home.
"Sorry kids, you'll have to wait till next year."
Just as I'll have to wait for my chance to ride the Gravitron -- if I can muster up the courage. As much as I'm a kid at heart, I'm not sure if my adult stomach can take that kind of punishment.
Sports writer Dave Leder joined the Hood River News in July. This was his first Hood River County Fair.