Going to the fair will do that to you

No Fair this year – that’s not fair!

Every year at this time, I go on and on about what I call the Red Deer Fair, which some people call the Westerner Exhibition, and how much fun it still is even now that I’m becoming a fossil.

But this year, it’s just another COVID casualty.

I wasn’t going to mention the Fair this year, but decided to anyway, and it’s my friend (everybody’s friend) Michael Dawe’s fault.

The beloved historian, city councillor, writer and local famous person, Sir Michael had a column right here in the Advocate the other day talking about how the Red Deer Fair had only been cancelled twice in history before this year.

At least I think that’s what he said; I have trouble following his big words sometimes. Anyway, this got me remembering, which often causes me to ramble on about things.

So since I grew up with the Red Deer Fair literally just outside my second-storey window, I pretty much lived at the Fair the entire time it lit up every July.

And even since they moved it on me out to the Westerner grounds, I still haven’t missed wandering around at the Fair for at least one day each year, like a kid at a carnival.

But this year, none of us will be able to release that inner kid, at least not at the Fair.

I, for one, will miss it.

Like the time we decided to sneak in way over by the barns. The far southeast corner of the downtown fairgrounds, by the animal barns, was always the best place to get in free under the fence, and everybody knew it.

Including the Fair people. So, of course, my friend Ken and I got caught.

It was on account of my jug handle ears. They always glowed bright red whenever I got nervous or was doing something remotely sketchy.

And even in the bright afternoon, they shone like the red parking lights on a ’55 Chev.

But here’s the thing: the volunteer Fair guy took one look at us excited ragamuffins and then smiled and said: “I didn’t see ya,” and gestured toward the rocking and rolling fairground.

We took off like a Tilt-A-Whirl, disappearing ecstatically into the magical midway.

Or the time my girlfriend and I had matching pendants engraved at one of the carny booths and then went on the Roundup, which is a giant wheel of centrifugal force, where you stand up side by side and are stuck to the wall as you spin.

It was totally radical, because Brenda was two or three feet taller than me, and on the Roundup, I could shimmy up and stick myself to the wall beside her at the same height. I think we even held hands.

The Fair will do that to you.

Or the time, over the course of a couple of hours at the Fair, I ate two corn dogs, a platter of elephant ears, a soggy corn on the cob, a grape snowcone, a Fiddlestick and something I can’t remember that was deep fried, that usually didn’t come deep fried.

That particular day (and more to the point – the aftermath) is permanently etched. Of course, that was a couple of years ago, at an age when I should’ve known better. The Fair will do that to you.

But at the end of the day, I think it’s just the Event, with a capital “E”, that I’m always drawn to. The energy and excitement, the people, the fun – what we hippies used to call a “happening.”

And this year, it ain’t happening. And that’s what we hippies used to call a “bummer.”

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

Editor’s note: Harley Hay has always held Red Deer’s fair in high regard. That’s why we’ve chosen to capitalize Fair throughout today’s column.

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