County Fair

Snow cones, rides, horses, and the banana derby

Once, years ago, Wired ran a Christmas wish list in which they asked each of the writers what we would want if we could have anything. I, fresh off the boat from southeast Asia, said: ubiquitous fast internet. These days I nearly have that and spend a good bit of time avoiding it.

I have a great fondness for places with no signal, but traveling with modems that connect to all three major U.S wireless carriers means those places are few and far between. Especially east the of the Mississippi. Which is why, when we pulled into to Richard B. Russell state park and discovered there was no cell service, I was caught off guard. It isn’t even remote. It has a golf course. We only came because everything else was booked.

I had work to do that afternoon so I did the only thing I could. I got in the car and drove into Elberton, which is how I discovered that the very next day was the opening of the Elberton 12-county Fair. As it says right there on the sign. That’s when I remembered that travel has its own agenda, it bends you to its will as it sees fit. If there had been signal, we’d have never made it to the fair. No fair, no monkeys racing on dogs. No one wants that. So no signal, yes fair.

We got there early the next day just after it opened. We sprung for some wrist bands so the kids could ride whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Then we ran into the height problem — there were far too many rides that not everyone could get on.

We managed though. I taught them how to stand up straight and how to walk toward the entrance with the surety of step that says, don’t even think about questioning my height. And it worked with all but one ride operater. Doesn’t matter where you go, there’s always that guy.

No matter what the situation, in the United States, there is always someone obsessed with the letter of the law, lacking the creativity to discern the spirit behind it. Or as my daughter put it with some degree of frustration and disgust “in Mexico this would never happen”. Mostly though, we had a blast.

What surprised me was the solidarity. The one who could ride never did if the others could not. And there was no reluctance about it, the nose was very nearly upturned. She would not hear of it even when I encouraged her to go ahead.

I have thus far been pretty lucky with aging. It’s rare that I feel my age, but things that spin or swing or whirl? Yeah, I can’t do that anymore. Those spinning swings used to be my favorite as kid too. These days the Ferris wheel is about the speed I can comfortably spin. There’d have been snow cone syrup all over those spinning rides if I’d been on them. The girls loved the spinning swings though.

There was a livestock section at the fair, nowhere near as serious or big as what we saw at the Montezuma County fair back in Colorado, but there were horses to pet at least.

And then there were the monkeys riding dogs. The Banana Derby.

“Monkey jockeys” I believe was the phrase.

I’m not sure what it is about small town fairs and monkeys, but I’ve seen them on two continents now, so I guess there’s some kind of universal appeal. Personally I find it far too much like rubber necking at an accident scene, but other people seem to like it. And unlike that night in Laos I just linked to, or the chicken chase at the fair in Colorado, this time we have video.


Jake Igoe December 25, 2019 at 8:38 p.m.

Spinning rides, it’s the same with me! I used to take pride is how fast I could get the tilt-a-whirl spinning. Two summers ago, at the age of 40, I rode on it, at the county fair no less, and almost puked! It was, a sad, sad day. I knew my life had changed forever. Oh well, at least I can still do roller coasters.

Scott December 27, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.


I know the feeling. That’s interesting though about roller coasters. It’s been ages since I rode a roller coaster, but somehow I think I’d be fine too. It’s the spinning motion that gets me.


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