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Maybe it was when I began smelling manure instead of candied apples. Or when the filth of the tilt-a-whirl dis­tracted me from the fun of both tilting and whirling. Or when I realized that a pretzel had 600 calories. (Really? A pretzel?)

Grad­ually, the fair has lost the allure it had when I was a grade schooler. Now, when I see the merry-go-round, I see germs, not ponies. When I see the Ferris wheel, I no longer see glit­tering lights. I see an under-stim­u­lated teenager who is paid $10 an hour to check seat belts. And yet, I go every year. And every year I ask myself, “Bailey, what is it about this disease- ridden, barnyard, trans-fat fest that keeps you coming back?”

My sister Annah and I are 15 months apart. We have been best friends ever since she made her debut into the world, so when I left for college the tran­sition was dif­ficult. But a year later, we’re still best friends with loads to talk about. This summer, it was Annah’s turn to expe­rience moving away from home. A week before she left for Cal­i­fornia, we decided to have one last summer visit to the fair.

It was going to close in 30 minutes, so we figured we would grab a snow cone and get out of dodge. But we both agreed as we searched for our favorite snow cone

We walked by the manure-smelling cow barn, said “hi” to our high-school buddy working the carousel, and altered our walking path when we stumbled across two love-stricken locals making out behind the ticket booth.

Even­tually, we found the aban­doned grand­stands in front of the hyp­notist stage and, as the fair shut down around us, caught up on each other’s lives.

Annah told me about her life­guard summer fling and her fears of going to Los Angeles. I told her about the crazy campers I coun­seled over the summer and my fears of going back to a life of endless work. We con­tinued to talk and rem­i­nisce until our melted snow cones encouraged us to go home.

I still don’t know why I like the fair. Maybe it’s an odd sort of fun to see the beauty in rusted alu­minum and lit­tered popcorn bags.  The fair may have lost its glamour, but it has not managed to lose its appeal. Maybe that’s because of the snow cones. Or because I always go with my sister. Either way, there is some­thing almost charming about the junky sparkle of the county fair that I know will draw me in next summer.

 

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