Saturday, November 26, 2011

All's fair: Oct. 3, 2004

I am a huge fan of anything fall-related, including the annual county fair. This column is from the year of the fair that almost wasn't. When it looked like the fair was going to be canceled, I was way sadder about the prospect of missing the fair than is probably normal.

Dear donor: Thanks for the $49,000 duck show
    My mom was really big on thank-you notes when we were growing up.

    Every time a card came in the mail with a $5 birthday bill tucked inside, we knew we wouldn’t get our hands on that money until a handwritten note was produced thanking the sender and giving explicit, ecstatic descriptions of how we would use the gift.

    "Dear Mrs. Coleman, Thank you so much for the $5. I am very happy that you remembered my birthday. I will use the money to buy a book about horses that I want."

    In fact, what I usually did with the $5 was walk down to Neff’s store and buy candy cigarettes, handfuls of penny bubblegum and bags of Sugar Babies. But even as a pretty small kid I knew that kind of information wasn’t what the thank-you note gods were looking for.

    After years of opening birthday cards and sitting down to draft letters of appreciation, I have a deep-seated thank-you note impulse. My grandmother, who really shouldn’t, still sends me a birthday check every year. My thank-you notes have gotten a little more detailed (and honest) since my days of hanging out at the candy counter watching Mr. Neff dole out sweets. I take a lot of pleasure in giving a handwritten thanks, and I know my grandmother really appreciates it.

    At the moment, however, I find myself in the unprecedented position of needing to write a thank-you note to an anonymous person. No name. No address. No clue. But my mother trained me to write thank-you notes, and I’m going to write one. So here goes.

    Dear anonymous donor, Thank you very much for the $49,000 you gave the county for the fair this year. I would love to say my family got to see and do everything at the fair last weekend, but I was held hostage by my 4-year-old son, who is obsessed with the duck show.

    Have you seen the duck show? It is hilarious. They have rigged up this little pond with a slide in the middle and food at the top. A whole procession of little yellow ducklings climbs up a ramp, grabs a mouthful of food and then tumbles down the slide into the water, little orange feet waving.     

    If you are 4 years old, this is the greatest form of entertainment ever created. My son was helpless with hysterical laughter as he watched the duck show. He could barely stand up. I have never seen anyone have that much fun.

    We spent a lot of time at the duck show.

    "Jack, let’s go see the bunnies."

    "I’m watching the ducks."

    "Jack, let’s ride a pony."


    "Jack, it’s lunch time. Let’s go get something to eat."


    Eventually, we had to drag Jack kicking and screaming from the duck show. It was OK, though, because once he ate a hot dog, a bag of potato chips and a chocolate ice cream cone, he was ready to go see the train display.

    Have you seen the train display? It is amazing. Tables and tables of infinitely detailed model trains and model towns and model amusement parks (really) and model mountains with tunnels and little steam engines that blow actual smoke from their smokestacks.

    We spent a lot of time at the train display.

    We also spent a fair amount of time petting sheep, cows and horses, feeding goats and looking at turkeys. These are animals my son never, ever sees except at the fair. He knows a sheep goes "baaa" and a cow goes "moo," but he’d never know what one felt like if we didn’t trek out to Chester Frost Park every September.

    I ate my annual funnel cake under an oak tree that spat acorns on my head, bought a $4 lemonade and tried to think of ways to tell you, anonymous donor, how glad we are you gave us all the chance to do it again this year. You saved the fair when the county couldn’t come up with the cash. You were the bright spot in a depressing series of financial disappointments delivered to us this summer.

    So thanks. We truly appreciate it. And we hope things work out next year so that you can enjoy the fair without shelling out $49,000 for the privilege.

    Best wishes,     

    Mary Fortune and her family     

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