Fairgoers talk about what they love most
I never developed a sixth sense. It has been difficult enough keeping up with five, and two already are starting to leave me. (My hearing isn’t worth a toot, and I’m practically “smell-blind.’’)
But this is a week on the calendar when I can get all my senses swinging for the fences.
The Georgia National Fair is back, and I can almost taste a funnel cake as I type those 10 letters. The Perry fair has been with us now for 29 years — nearly a generation. A half-million people — 31 times the population of Perry — will pass through the turnstiles between now and Oct. 14.
And, lest we forget, the Georgia State Fair, which is wrapping up a 10-day run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, spent 160 historic years in Macon. (The first “kazoo” was introduced at the fair at Central City Park in 1852. No, I did not attend that one.)
Our senses are memory triggers. A Ferris wheel not only takes us up, down and around … it takes us back.
I’ve never been a fan of heights, so a spin cycle with gravity on a big wheel is not my idea of time well invested. But at least I can scratch it off my sky bucket list.
I remember my first Ferris wheel ride. It was at the old Southeastern Fair at the Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta. (I also remember that wooden roller coaster, “The Greyhound,” that was featured in the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies.)
When it comes to our five senses, let me begin with taste. You rarely leave the fair hungry. If you do, you have only yourself to blame.
Fair fare is a buffet line of the exotic and eclectic. Candy apples. Elephant ears. Fried Oreos. Polish/Italian sausage. Kettle corn. Salt-water taffy. Frozen bananas. Gourmet doughnuts. Waffle bacon dogs. And turkey legs the size of a defensive tackle’s thighs.
(If any of that made you salivate, this writer did his job.)
The fair is an aromatic (and sometimes not-so-aromatic) penetration of our nostrils. Every corn dog, stack of nachos, swirl of fudge and scoop of soft custard is blended and stirred on the midway as if they all were from the same recipe. There’s smoke from the food trucks, spicy whiffs from the kiosks.
Of course, there are competing smells from the animal barns and arenas filled with pigs and cows. (Or swine and bovine.) If you grew up out in the country, goat and horse sightings can be quite nostalgic.
The fair offers a visual experience, even from the far ends of the parking lot. Nothing can compete with the night lights of the fair. There is enough glow to be seen from outer space. The bird’s-eye views from the cable cars and duck’s-eye views from the paddle boats can be unforgettable. And who doesn’t love to watch fireworks?
There are plenty of aesthetic blue ribbons to go around in the exhibition halls filled with artwork, photography and quilts. There are eye-popping shows with sharks, sea lions, racing pigs, clowns and stunt artists.
Still, my favorite sights are the crowds. I am a people watcher.
Young. Old. Short. Tall. Skinny. Fat. Sometimes their clothes tell their stories. Other times, the scripts are written in wrinkles and tattoos.
You know you can “feel’’ the fair, too. In the grip of a child’s hand, ride tickets in your pocket, sawdust beneath your feet and dollar bills slipping through your fingers.
The fair is a sound stage of music, an echo chamber of magic. The carnival barkers (carnies) call out to you to show off your strength and aim. Or to let them guess your age. There is the incessant clicking and whirring of the rides, sirens, horns, squeals and laughter.
Touch it. Hear it. Taste it. Smell it. See it.
But, most of all, enjoy it.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sunday in The Telegraph.