Tomorrow, October 7th 2012, is Fair Day in Norfolk County. I’ll be trekking off with the Good Wife, the Smurf and little Ryder-oo to make this annual pilgrimage. We’ll be joined there by my niece and her two little ones. It will be a day of rides, cotton candy and hours and hours of walking.
Really, you have to go there to appreciate the magnitude of this very unusual event.
“Isn’t tomorrow a school day?” you might ask.
No, my friends, this is Norfolk County and Fair Day is designated SCHOOL HOLIDAY! This is a day when every freaking child along with scores of parents and teachers attend the fair – all day long, from dawn until dusk and BEYOND.
The Phenom and his buddies Coin and Juice have already headed out to the pre-party at Twoods for a night of beers and cheers with their peers. This is a warm-up for a 7:30 am High School extravaganza which puts me in mind of Jeff Foxworthy’s statement, “You might be a Redneck if . . .”
For your information I have written a Blog Post as sort of a primer on what Fair Day is all about.
Well, go ahead and give it a read, friends. After that, I’ll let you be the judge.
“You might be a redneck if you have a designated school holiday called County Fair Day.”
One of the most amazing, bizarre and unusual events of the year occurred recently in good old Simcoe, Ontario. This day is a throw-back to another time when rural communities took a “time-out” to celebrate the harvest season. This event is so old-school and redneck that I’m proud to say I took part in it.
What is this auspicious event called?
None other than: FAIR DAY
Fair Day is an annual celebration in Norfolk County when all school children get the day off school to attend the, you guessed it, Norfolk County Fair. Yes, you heard me right; going to the Fair is a school holiday not unlike Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas.
Teachers are required to report to the Fair and wander about spending their regular school hours visiting with students and parents alike. They must sign their ticket and report in upon entering the fair grounds, proving that they haven’t skipped out for a quick round of golf. Truant teachers are raked upon the coals if they have no legitimate excuse. Yard work, sleeping in, shopping excursions and the like are definitely verboten.
But it doesn’t really matter because most teachers attend regularly, particularly if they were raised in the area and are into corn dogs, elephant ears poutine and Armageddon.
Since I’ve been retired I’ve gone to the fair a few times on another teacher’s free pass. You see, not all teachers savor this day as either inspirational or useful. So, given that background information, you know a lot of fair employees and volunteers now call me “Judy”.
“Hi, Judy, glad you could make it to the fair again this year!” or just a plain old “Thank you, mam. Have a great day at the fair!”
Teachers attending the fair on “Fair Day” are to act as “kind judicious parents”, and supervise the fair by “precept and example” much as they would yard duty. However, my friends, this is tantamount to yard duty on crack. You have hundreds of hyped up kids on sugar highs running around like screaming banshees. This is the place of epidemic ADD, ODD and ADHD disorders.
TEACHER: Now! Now! No running between the games-of-chance booth’s, Billy!
STUDENT: Bug off you old hag!
Fortunately the local police are out in force. I mean the place is crawling with OPP Officers. We’ve seen high school kids taken away in handcuffs for crying out loud.
The biggest event of the day is the High School competition which is held in the rather substantive grandstand area Each of six high schools decorates their section of the seating area and 90% of students attend. That’s about 5000 screaming (some inebriated, some stoned, some just plain hyped) teenagers. The noise is incredible and the pandemonium phenomenal.
There are so many hormones running amuck that the air carries a robust scent not unlike that given off by rutting deer in October.
The kids all dress in their school colors, paint their faces and many wear those morph suits that display your packages as if it were meat in a supermarket. One of the schools main colors is blue, so these androgynous morph people look as if they are an army of deranged Smurfs.
My son’s school theme one year was – now get this – “Jailbirds”. Most of the kids were dressed in black and white striped clothing. They marched from the High School, 1200 strong, with a police escort, sirens blaring, lights flashing and all.
These schools compete for the coveted NORFOLK COUNTY FAIR HIGH SCHOOL TROPHY and the prestige of being the Number One High School in the county. Well, that could very well be the number one school in terms of drunken debauchery, as the critics would have you believe.
All of the football teams wear their jerseys, the cheer teams are dressed in cheer regalia, faces are painted and huge special effects and signage is displayed. School colors and logos are displayed everywhere. If you arrive in the middle of this you will believe the Sesame Street word of the day is either Chaos or Mayhem. You can hear the roar of the crowd from blocks away.
The competition is fierce. There is a male and a female tug-of-war competition, where the biggest and baddest big-boned kids you’ve ever seen struggle to reef their competitors over the “Tug Line”. This competition makes the MMA look like senior citizen arm wrestling. Bodies crumble and tumble, one upon the other, much like a scrum in rugger.
There is a road race for both boys and girls involving two brutal laps around the ½ mile horse racing oval. Depending on the day, you might want to put your money on the mudders who participate. Giddy-up!
The biggest event, of course, is reserved for the Cheer Teams. These kids begin practice the first day of the semester (some work all summer) in preparation for the County Championship. But, it can be a lot like NASCAR for the devotees; because every pyramid built or cheerleader tossed is one small step away from an EMS emergency call. The roar from the grandstand during all of this can be heard 10 blocks away.
Once the competition ends around noon, these 5000 or so teenagers invade the midway like a giant human Tsunami. I know my teenager arrived at the fair around 8:30 am and I won’t be picking him up until 10 pm. That’s almost as much time as he spends sleeping. Yes. Fair Day is that big in our community.
Now, what about those elementary school kids? What’s in it for them?
Well, first of all, 20% of the high school audience is made up of the little kids who come to watch their siblings. Others wander about the fair in groups or with parents.
The Fair is progressive yet much of it retains its old school roots. There are animal displays and farming demonstrations every where. Commercial buildings are filled to the rafters with transient merchants hawking the next big thing. Knock off clothing can be purchased for next to nothing. The fair marketplace makes Wal-Mart or the Dollar General look like Macy’s.
You get the picture. It’s all about hucksters and those that shill much like that guy on TV, Vince.
“Yes, mam, the Chopper-nator has a lifetime guarantee and I’ll let you take it away for the small price of $19.99.” Vince’s pencil thin mustache bobs up and down with every word. “I’ll even throw in the handy dandy Peel-a-nator, at no extra charge.”
Ya right, Vince, a week from now when that piece of junk breaks into little bits and pieces, you’ll be singing, “So long, I’m long gone, sucker!”
Youth competitions are abundant, from those for arts and crafts, baking and sewing to the more traditional 4H animal competitions. The original purpose of Fair Day was to release the kids from school on the first day of the Fair so that they could go to see what ribbons they earned in the competitions.
When my own kids were younger they’d get a competition brochure the first week of school. The next month would be spent preparing 20 or 30 entries. With the prizes ranging from 25 cents to $5.00, my kids could rack up better than $20 in prize money every year.
We still have a box full of ribbons accumulated from the three of them. I’m proud to report that we were the reigning “Mr. Potato Head” Champions for 4 years running. (We had some difficulty in the cucumber animal category, however. That one kind of freaked me out.)
The food is wonderful and tempting, from corn dogs to elephant ears, to poutine and, of course, there are those award winning barbecue pits with pulled pork and ribs. Last year there were battered deep fried Brownies for sale. I kid you not!
Give me good old back-bacon on a bun and I’ll go home more than satisfied.
The midway is shoulder-to-shoulder bad ass bedlam. With rock music blaring, bands of teenagers walk the boulevards in search of the next big thrill. Hoots, howls and primal screaming are at Jet engine level. Those rides provide a pukefest like no other. Grumpy’s rule is to never walk within 25 feet of the Scrambler. That ride takes projectile vomiting to the next level.
I truly believe that the majority of people who attend fairs are genetically related to those that work there. Many of them have the same vacant look in their eyes and sport the identical wardrobe. The Fair should really institute a “Tattoo of the Day” competition given the clientele.
Nonetheless, this common bond allows for awesome commerce, especially on the row of “games-of-chance” booths. You can walk there to the beat of “Doggy, doggy, doggy!”
I’d have to say that there were over 20 000 people at the fair on Fair Day, and that’s in a town of 20 000. You could say that Simcoe was a lot like Green Bay when the Packers are in town. You could fire a canon down Main Street. And yes, many parents take the day off work so they can accompany their children on Fair Day.
So, as Jeff Foxworthy would likely say:
“If the opening of the County Fair is a school holiday and your momma once anchored her high school tug-of-war team…..
You might just be a redneck!”
Do you have any “REDNECK” examples from your experience? Post them here (Comments) or fire me off an email. I’m sure others would like to hear your thoughts and share your foibles.
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