Riding with a FH Firemen's Fair Memory

Closing night of the fair was Saturday

It’s all about the ride. Forget about waiting in line in nerve-wracked anticipation to get on it and the guise of regret when it comes to an end. 

When I was a kid, my dad, Bill, used to goad me to ride the Sizzler with him at the — that stupid amusement the sole purpose of which was to whip you around on the end of octopus-like tendrils ‘til you were sour-bellied, dizzy and scared.

OK, I was a bow-legged, scrawny sissy. Dad would bellow his unmistakably hearty guffaw as I screamed and smashed into his side from the Sizzler's whipping force. And that laugh … that laugh … No one knew quite how to amuse themselves with their own inside jokes like Bill Van Develde.

You could say it was symbolic of the ride life takes us on — jolting and scary at times, yet an amusing thrill of comfort.

The fair ended last night. The tradition it brings every year evokes memories of many beginnings and endings.

Yes, everything has its time and purpose and those beginnings and endings are a part of life. But what about hanging onto the middle just a little?

Sometimes the beginnings and endings are just too bittersweet a life’s morsel to gobble up.

On closing night, longtime fair volunteer Jeanette Choma lets balloons float up into the dark, endless sky over the fair grounds, presumably to Heaven, in memory of everyone associated with the fair who has passed. Teary eyed, she always reminds me of her tradition and that she never forgets. No one does. No one forgets that middle.

When you let go of a helium balloon, like a lot of things you begrudgingly let go of in life, you really never know where it’s going to end up. Sometimes it just gets away from you.

You’ve seen it before … a kid crying, jumping in the air to grab it back and hold on tighter than before. It’s that time … the time when you held it and walked with it that made you smile ... like a memory. Letting it go never takes that middle away.

The fairgrounds are sparse today. The rides are dismantled. No one’s cooking in the kitchen. The remnants of a balloon that never made it to "heaven" are stuck on a few fence posts.

In the distance, I can hear Dad's loud, hearty laugh, followed by his signature "Take 'er easy, buddy!" as he roams the fairgrounds annoying small children with smacks on the back and his relentless work ethic. I can see Mom laughing at the Grab Bag Booth and offering a little piece of funnel cake and a balloon to kids. Both were always very content in their "middle" niche. So were we.

“Take ‘er easy, Mom and Dad ... Take 'er easy, fair folks … Thanks for the middle.”

susan sorensen September 03, 2012 at 11:57 PM
This was a lovely story - and a nice way to end the stories on the long time traditional end to Summer around here - The Fireman's Fair. Thank you for sharing this community event - and now back to school we all go. Business as ususal. Thank you again for all the heartfelt stories - they brought back memories.
Julie Kirsh September 04, 2012 at 12:37 AM
I agree with Susan Sorensen: It was a lovely story, and an entertaining fair! What's wrong with Karen and her nasty comment(s)! A little nostalgia is fun in this day and age; look around you at the world in its present state! A trip to the fair either in-person or via a story lightens things up a little. Maybe Karen should "lighten up," as well!
Daryl cooper ley September 04, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Elaine, I have enjoyed every single one of your "firemans fair" stories. Growing up in Fair Haven, I also have had so many memories of summer and the fair has always been my favorite! Thank you so much for bringing me back to the wonderful days, when I was a young kid..the excitement of seeing the rides going up the week before school started. My parents spending time with me there even though at times I'm sure they wanted to be anywhere else. The teen years of seeing all the kids that I had not seen all summer. Also, the wonderful years my husband and I would take our 4 kids to the fair until the sad day when they didn't want us to take them any longer. I hope to take my own grandchildren there one day and tell them stories of my youth. Your wonderful stories have helped to bring it all back to me and so many other local friends of mine feel the same. One of the things I love most about this area is the small town, "Pollyana" feeling I get while at the fair. You helped remind me of that with all the familiar faces you showed. The video is great! Such great people! Remembering your parents the way you have, has made it more special. I remember them well. They were such wonderful, giving people who had such a passion for making the fair a success. Their love for the fair was obviously passed on to you! Thank you! Hope to see you there next year!


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