Back from Mayberry

I just got back from Mayberry. Well, not really, but it sure seemed like it. Today was Health Day at the county fair in the small town where I work. This was my first time going to this county fair, and I’m so glad I did. 

I ended up riding over to the fair grounds with my boss after the folksy directions everyone gave me like “turn at the building that used to be the old funeral parlor” escaped me. We parked on a grassy knoll, where high school volunteers in orange pinnies directed us. No charge for the parking, which I know at the county fair in my “big city” at home would have cost at least $7.00.

As we walked through the gate, half a dozen conversations were going on around us, to which we were automatically drawn in. It helps that my boss,  whom I’ve dubbed the queen of this small town, seems to know just about everyone. And people here are friendly, whether you know them or not. Folks talked about their blood pressure, vacations, and the cow their grandson is showing in the fair.

This is the prettiest fair I’ve ever seen – quaint old white barns with plank floors scrubbed clean and doors thrown open to show their wares. We ambled past a duck pond and  kiddie rides that made me wish my granddaughter was with me, so we could take a trip together round and round on a space ship. We passed through the homemaking building where a group of quilters beseeched us to buy tickets for the quilt raffle; past displays of homemade quilts that at least here people still take the time to painstakingly make by hand; past floral arrangements, potted plants, and antique displays. Past a tractor display, where parents and grandparents boosted toddlers onto tractor seats, and little kids climbed up on the big tires amid cries of “Look at me!” 

We reached the long narrow barn with the health fair booths and set up our table, cajoling passersby to stop for free toothpaste, candy and a chance to have their blood pressure checked. While I charmed farmers in plaid shirts and straw hats to let me check their blood pressure, my boss chatted with half the people in the town about the upcoming rotary meeting, which kids were going back to college soon, and all the mundane things that people in small towns know about each other. One lady whom  I cajoled into the blood pressure chair whispered that she knew her blood pressure was high, but couldn’t afford her medicine. While I tucked her arm under mine and pumped up the cuff, I told her about the cheapest places to go to get the medicine she needed, all the while marveling why her own doctor had not done the same. I asked the man in the square dancing outfit what he was all dressed up for as I coaxed him into the chair, to which he replied “For my date with you!”

I  told people who had so few teeth that it hurt to look at them about our dental clinic. I let a little boy listen to his heart with my stethoscope. I encouraged a portly man with a red face who told me he had already lost 60 pounds. I wrapped the blood pressure cuff around all sorts of arms – young, old, tattooed, tanned, and chatted and smiled with all sorts of friendly folks, the kind you meet in small towns and just can’t help liking.

At the end of the day we packed up our booth and walked back to the car park, juggling our glasses of hand-squeezed lemonade with our baskets of leftover freebies, slurping the last few delightful drops out of the bottom of the glass.

Next year I’ll be back. We’ll have more toothbrushes to go with our toothpaste. Maybe I’ll make a card to give to  folks with a list of where to get low-cost prescriptions. Maybe I’ll bring a play stethoscope for the little kids to use while I check their parent’s blood pressure. And I certainly will come early. I’ll turn right by the old funeral parlor, drive up to the grassy knoll and park by the high school volunteers.  I’ll chat with the people at the gate, enter the quilt raffle, buy a hot dog and a freshly squeezed lemonade. I’ll see the sheep and cows, look at the tractors and maybe even try a ride the next time I go back: back to Mayberry.

© Huffygirl 2011


8 thoughts on “Back from Mayberry

  1. That sounds like fun. When I was a kid and we camped cross-country, I went to some county fairs. I loved them. They were so different from the “fairs” we had in New York City. The closest we get to livestock competitions here is judging which stand has the best sausage and pepper hero at the San Gennaro feast. 😉

    • “The closest we get to livestock competitions here is judging which stand has the best sausage and pepper hero …” I love that Margaret. There is just something nostalgic about a county fair. In today’s fast-paced society, I think we need a chance to relax in an old fashioned way.

  2. We go to the Johnson County fair every year, and it sounds similar, though maybe not quite as quaint & picturesque as the one you described. But the dentist’s office across the street from the fairgrounds offers free parking… The Lion’s Club sells homemade pork tenderloin sandwiches as big as your hand for only $4.50. The Optimists Club is known for their “beaver tails,” which are their version of elephant ears. Another group sells homemade ice cream. You can see all the 4-H exhibitors’ prizewinning vegetables, decorated cakes, the basic skirts that all the first-year sewing kids make, and the latch hook rugs and needlepoint kleenex covers that make you marvel, “people still do that?” The kiddie rides are not overcrowded or overpriced. And the best part of the Johnson County fair is the hot air balloon race that kicks off the first evening of the fair. Nothing like a couple hundred people standing around the perimeter of a big field wondering if the weather gods will provide the apparently perfect conditions needed for all the balloons to launch. (They didn’t this year, unfortunately, because it’s a really beautiful sight to behold.) Ah, rural America…

  3. This is why we love the washboard festival in Logan, Ohio. Just subtract the livestock and quilts, and add in a lot of music and sidewalk tables, and you’ve got it. Same low-cost good food and all-around good folks.
    The Elkhart County fair is much like the one you’re describing, Donna.
    And, in many ways, this reminds me of growing up in Paw Paw, which I really didn’t appreciate enough as a kid. Those small-town people and their values really stuck with me.

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