Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Fair: fire ants, greasy hair, nuclear holocaust, and blacking out.

The smell of grease, body odor, livestock, cotton candy, and hand sanitizer is in the air.  This can only mean one thing.  The South Plains Fair is in full swing.  Just a week ago the trucks rolled into town and quickly set up their death traps rides.  The tigers on Prozac and their long-haired, toothless trainers set up camp right next to the LumberJills, ready to entertain the masses from Lubbock and all of its surrounding areas.

The fair brings up so many memories.  I remember that day every year in Elementary school when the teacher handed us that little yellow ticket, good for one free entry on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon.  I grasped that ticket with such joy and guarded it with my life for fear of losing it and losing my opportunity to experience the vomit-inducing Himalayan Express or the Tilt-a-Whirl.  While most people's fair memories revolve around the rides, I realized today that my top five fair memories have nothing to do with the rides.  I have crossed over to the other side(s) of the fair.  I am not a mere fair patron, I have experienced the world of fair vendor, entertainer, and 4-H participant at various times in my life.  So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 South Plains Fair Memories.

5.  When I was in college, I participated in an ensemble called Thursday Nite Live.  We performed in front of a live studio audience once a month and that lovely show was broadcast on a local cable access station in Levelland, Texas.  If that doesn't impress you, may I also add that reruns of the show were aired on Saturday nights at 11:30pm on LISD-TV, cable channel 12 in Lubbock.  (I'll be signing autographs later).  Our ensemble also played at the fair a few years.  One of those years I was awaiting my grand entrance "backstage" (the stage was sandwiched in between the Merchant's building and the building with all the baked goods and quilts people submitted for judging) when out of no where I was attacked by fire ants.  They were crawling up my leg!  I managed to smack them all off just as they were introducing me and my rendition of Everyday is a Winding Road.  By the time I made it to the microphone, my leg was on fire.  The ants had bit me in several places and through the pain, I choked back the tears and belted out the Sheryl Crow song to the few fans sitting on their hay bale seats.

4.  As a young child, my parents were very worried that my sisters and I were not getting all we could out of life because we were not being raised on a farm.  Both my parents grew up on farms so it was what they knew.  They were navigating the uncharted waters of public, big-city schools without a tractor or pasture full of cattle to balance it out.  So naturally they thought my sister, Paige, and I should show animals through 4-H.  One would think that yuppy, city girls like us should start out small with a pig or a lamb, but not my parents.  They dove right in.  We were going to show 1,500 pound steers.  I was eight after all.  I could handle it.  We visited the farm a few times a week (there are enough stories there to fill up another 10 blog posts) and prepared for the big fair show coming in the fall.  The day arrived and off we went to the fair.  While this was many years ago, my memories of this particular fair show are quite vivid and include a bedazzled denim vest and matching bow that my mom made for this special occasion, that giant steer getting away from me in the ring (shocking, I know), tears (mine, of course), and a green "Participant" ribbon.  We only participated in 4-H that one time.  I guess farm-life isn't for everyone.

3.  My next memory is from another Thursday Nite Live performance at the fair.  Same stage, only this time the Maines Brothers Band was going to be playing after us!  Needless to say the crowds this year were MUCH larger.  This was also the first year I was playing keys in the ensemble.  I was forced  asked to play by my dear mentor and instructor, Cary Banks.  He believed in  me, and I refused to let him down, so I reluctantly agreed.  He sent me home with a "Honky Tonk Piano" instructional VHS and sent me on my way.  I practiced like crazy that semester and it made me a better player for sure, so I'm grateful for that.  I'm still looking for an opportunity to pull out some Honky-Tonk Piano licks in a worship service.  I digress.  This year at the fair we were playing a super hard song called Country Boy that was performed by the incredible Jedd Hughes.  This was our finale song and I had a solo in it that I had practiced for weeks.  I was nervous and having great musicians stare at you while you're playing made me even more nervous.  Well, Cary decided since it was our last song, it would be fun to invite some of his friends (aka professional musicians) up to play with us.  Lloyd Maines (award-winning producer, songwriter, musician, and all around musical genius) grabbed a guitar, cozied up next to my keyboard and said "Can I look on with your chart?"  I nearly lost it right then and there.  I have no recollection of how that solo went.  I don't remember playing the entire song.  I was told afterward that I did good, but I seriously think I just blacked out.  Went into some kind of traumatic coping mechanism.  Ah, fair memories.

2.  I really could add "Fair Entertainer" to my resume.  When I was a young kid, we did an original musical at our church called "FutureWord."  The play was a family-friendly presentation about life after a nuclear holocaust.  The things my parents let me participate in.....  Anyways, I was "Girl #2" in FutureWord.  My costume was basically a torn-up dress with black smudges all over it.  My hair and make-up, however, were quite a different story.  I was the rainbow girl.  The color started on my face and then ran into my hair (that was teased to look like I had been electrocuted).  It was....special.  After our gut-wrenching performance at the fair, I begged my mom to let me go ride a few rides with some friends that were in the cast.  She agreed, and off we went, in full costume and make-up.  We scared everyone, even the carnies.  Now that's saying something.

1.  My number 1 fair memory still haunts me to this day.  I can't hardly tell the story out loud because I laugh so hard at the thought of it.  When I was in 7th grade, our church got a Corn Dog Booth at the fair.  I would volunteer to work a few shifts each year, and we sold corn dogs to the masses (we still do!).  After a few years of professional corn dog experience under my belt, I begged my mom to let me sign up for a night shift.  This is where the serious corn dog people worked.  The lunch rush?  It's for babies.  Afternoon and dinner time?  Please.  The night shift was legit, and I wanted to get in on it.  At first my mom said no, because they didn't close until midnight.  After weeks of begging, she agreed to let me sign up for one night shift.  It was even on a school night!  I worked the shift and it felt good.  I was a real fair vendor now.  I got home around 1:00am, stripped down in the laundry room (you STINK after working in the corn dog stand), stumbled up the stairs and passed out.  The next morning, I slept right through my alarm.  My mom came upstairs 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave and yelled "you're not up???  We are leaving in TEN MINUTES!"  I jumped out of bed, threw on a t-shirt and some jeans, threw my stuff in my backpack, brushed my teeth, ran a brush through my greasy hair, and ran downstairs.  As I was rushing out the door, a note on the refrigerator caught my eye.  I whipped around to read it.  It. Was. Picture. Day.  I totally forgot.  Let's just say I have a bit of a picture day curse.  Several years of my life, crazy things always happened on picture day.  Not this year.  I ran back upstairs, put on a decent outfit, grabbed some makeup and headed back out the door.  I made it to school and while standing in the picture line, someone behind me said, "what is that weird smell?"  In all of my frazzled craziness I didn't even realize that I still smelled like corn dogs!  I had failed to shower.  I was so tired the night before, I went straight to bed.  That morning, I overslept, so no shower then either.  It is not ok to not shower after working in the corn dog stand!  You stink!  Your hair, your skin, it all stinks!  Such a nightmare.  Like middle school isn't hard enough!  Now I was the greasy corn dog girl.  I just pretended I didn't know what they were talking about and kept a safe distance from people the rest of the day.  Next year, I opted for a few afternoon shifts and left the serious corn dog work to those who could handle it.

So, those are my Top 5 Fair Memories.  I have many more memories of the fair and I would love to hear yours!


Paige Allen said...

Future Word...I remember talking to my teacher the week of the fair...she had taken her family out to the fair and had caught a few minutes of our show. She said we frightened her children...and then I think she said something along your line - it was special.

Abby Louder said...

Hahaha oh man I'm loving this!