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Fair thee well, despite an obstacle or two

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(Photo)
Well, here we are, halfway through the 2011 Putnam County Fair.

My poison ivy has been a real itch. Hay fever has my nostrils flared more than a heifer in heat. And the dust clouds have turned my black convertible top a crazy khaki color.

But we've survived the heat. Prevailed over the parade. Traversed the traffic.

No casualties yet, save for a one pair of once-cordovan loafers that lost a battle to some untimely brown deposits between the Inside Arena and the Beef and Dairy Barns.

We've seen some other, more solidly interesting sights since Friday. After all, it's been six years since my last foray into the fairgrounds to cover the Putnam County event of the year.

Been a few changes in the interim. For instance, the Industrial Tent and the carnival rides swapped places.

Maybe it's just me, but I liked it better wandering through the tent and seeing familiar faces as I made my way to the arena from the parking lot. Now I have to snake my way in and around the midway to reach my destination.

Granted, the Industrial Tent is now tucked in between Harris Hall and the Community Building, but that just means more distractions as I try to go from one to the other for news purposes. Haven't made a non-stop trip yet as there's always someone who wants to chitchat about this or that.

When I last covered things back in 2004, prices were a little cheaper. An elephant ear is now $5.

While it would be easy to crack wise and say they ought to be the ears off real elephants at that price, I'll have to admit the one I bought on my way home Saturday night was a mighty tasty treat. And, of course, an elephant ear really isn't something you can whip up on the George Foreman grill or in the microwave at home, now is it?

Not to mimic Rachel Ray, but ... yum-mo!

Haven't made it over to the legendary Legionburger lair yet, but co-workers assure they are as juicy and tasty as advertised.

They, too, have seen a price hike since I last bit into one. The going rate is $1.25 now (seems like only yesterday that the burgers, fries and drinks were all 25 cents and sold like hotcakes).

Good to remember though, that the sales of legendary Legionburgers are really a fundraiser for a fine local organization, so eat up, Shriners (yes, I know it is the American Legion, but how can I resist another pun?)!

Then there's the audio backdrop so familiar to fairs past. Not many minutes went by without someone paging someone to the Beef Barn. Nowadays with everyone carrying a cell phone, we all just call each other, no need for any desperate paging over the din of the fair.

Smart alecks often snuck a few imposters into the mix, like the night the nice older woman doing the PA paging implored: "Kurt CO-bain to the Beef Barn."

Of course, grunge rocker Kurt Cobain had already met his untimely demise by then (1994 to be exact), and the Beef Barn announcer became an unwitting accomplice in the somewhat sick joke.

Yet while we only report and photograph the winners and the fun and the games that make this one of Indiana's great summer fairs, I can't help but think we should be able to make some awards of our own.

Already I have a Grand Champion in mind.

County Extension Director Mark Evans wins my vote.

Every time I turn around Mark is right there, getting off his golf cart to take care of something else, mend another fence, listen to another concern, help point us to the right person.

It was Mark who found the fair's traditional picture frame-like archway on the ground outside the Inside Arena as the 4-H Goat Show was coming to a conclusion Saturday night.

He didn't tell someone else to take care of it. Didn't pass the work off to a Junior Leader. Instead, he and David Greenberg grabbed a post hole digger, made a couple of holes, inserted two steel rods and restored order to Kodak Moments for the rest of the fair.

And when he realized the hanging sign still said 2010, Mark was off on his golf cart like he'd just banged the tee shot of his life.

Returning to the Community Building, he printed out a green 2011 and made everyone a little bit happier.

That's what the fair is really all about, isn't it? Making us all just a little bit happier.

So have fun. Just watch out for those brown clumps near the arena.