While growing up in Delaware, the county fair season always had a special place in my heart. When I was much, much younger, the penny arcade was my favorite place to be. This one game especially. There was a truck near a pit, loaded with beans. You used a crane to try to load the beans on the truck. Then, the truck would move and dump the beans. I could have played it for hours.
I was involved in 4-H and later FFA, showing vegetables, and other farm products. My mom would never let me show animals. I think she was too tired and knew the hours it took to raise and show them. Today, I have so much respect for those parents who help their children, because the hours can be relentless.
When I got a little older, a very good friend of mine was a horse trainer. I started going to the horse races to watch him drive and also to see the wonderful animals. When I got a commission with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, I started working endless hours as security. I ran across so many people and made so many friends. Later, I was asked to help as the horse stall man. That was a lot of work with very little sleep.
One of my best friends, Mike Askew, would help me there. Plus, he worked the gate security at night, and I’m not sure how he did it. We would take our two weeks vacation to work at the fair. Later, Tommy Thomson asked if I could help in the Log Cabin. It was a very nice place to work, because you could get in out of the weather. I worked with some of the most dedicated and professional people while there. I worked with Dick Norris, RIP, and another of my best friends, Rick Inglish, in a very small room taking phone entries for the races. We had some long days and worked very well together. We all had other jobs to help with all that went into holding the Little Brown Jug races. One other of the persons I worked with was a cousin of mine, Dale Blackledge, RIP. What a great man he was. I miss Dick and Dale very much.
Tommy Thomson, RIP, was good to me. I enjoyed working for him there. After Tommy passed, we lost so many good people that I found it hard to return there to work.
Now, to my all time favorite part of the fair: FOOD!
Where do I start? I cannot go to the fair without going to Ray’s Fries. With salt and vinegar, they are so good! In the mornings at the fair, I have the Brown Jug sandwich which is a muffin with egg, bacon and a sausage patty. I cannot go to the fair without heading to the Buckeye Valley food tent. Good food and a very good price. Plus, you are helping the boosters. Each year, it seems there is something different to try, and I always try. Oh, the great elephant ears, or the ice cream shop near the merchant’s building. One of my all time favorite tongue-tantalizing treats is the candy apple. Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have gotten them, and they are still good.
On Tuesday at the fair this year, I got to spend the day with my lovely wife, Carolee Conklin, her father ,George Conklin, and her great-aunt Mary Thomas, who had invited us to sit with her, in her box, and watch the races. George is a retired horse trainer. It was fun to sit there and listen to the stories from his racing days. Lots of harness horse history! George told us a story of when his uncle, Paul Norris, was hit my lighting while racing at the Hilliard fair, and he lived to tell about it.
We got to talk to some old friends, and laugh at their stories, too. Later, Carolee and I headed to the Junior Fair animal sale. What a sale! The animals were so good looking. Since I grew up feeding, raising and studying judging, I was very impressed with the show stock. The sale was a lot of fun. We went with my nephew and his wife to buy something. We had no big plan, but I bid on a few things and was able to win a few things in my wife’s name.
Being a retired deputy sheriff, sometimes I lose faith in my fellow man. However, I have to say that Tuesday night, my faith was restored. There was a family that has been in 4-H for several years. There are four children who were showing rabbits. A member of their family is terminal. The oldest child has also been diagnosed with cancer. So, many bidders got together and paid over $1,000 for each child’s rabbits. That was so good, it brought a tear to my eyes. Sometimes, I wonder if this should be written down, but if this gets to any of the bidders, I want them to know it was a very good thing they did. It just shows there is a heart in people after all.
The Delaware County Fair turned out to be a wonderful time for family, friends, food and entertainment. I want to thank all those who put their heart and soul into it.