The sights and sounds of the 155th Annual Wayne County Fair
Early August is one of my favorite times of the year. Baseball pennant drives are beginning, pre-season football is underway and for 10 glorious days Dyberry Township becomes the center of my universe.
Make fun of me if you wish, but the Wayne County Fair will always hold a special place in my heart.
From harness racing to livestock shows, Demolition Derby to 4H, Woodsmen's Competition to Rosaire's Royal Racers, the Wayne County Fair provides countless opportunities for wholesome family fun.
On Thursday afternoon, I meandered from one end of the grounds to the other, taking notes and snapping photos as I went.
Here are just a few of the highlights (and I promise: no mention whatsoever of the “Actually” Kid!).
On the Track
My main destination on this particular day was the grandstand and one more date with harness racing.
First of all, a visit to the old wooden grandstand is something I eagerly anticipate each summer.
This edifice just oozes history. I love climbing the stairs to the upper level, ducking out of the bright sunshine and taking refuge in the cool shadows … a perfect vantage point to watch the races.
I also love dropping by the “crow's nest” to say hello to the harness racing officials. From track announcer Jeff Firmstone to longtime associate judge and timer Jack Gumpper, these men have never wavered in their support of a sport that a few years ago was on life support in PA.
There are also smiling, familiar faces sprinkled about the stands.
From my spot here in the top row, I can see Pat & Leroy Spoor … a couple who, to my knowledge, never misses a day of harness racing at the fair.
Just to their left is the always affable Ab Rutherford, who's on hand to help present a trophy in memory of the late Judge James Rutherford.
I can also see just about the entire Firmstone Clan, along with members of the Perkins Family, local harness racing royalty.
There are kids here as well … freckle-faced boys and girls with sun-burnt noses. They're clutching cotton candy and candy apples, cheering for their favorite horses as they thunder toward the finish line.
I close my eyes for a moment and soak it all in, recalling a time in the not so distant past when Alec and Scout sat by my side on this very spot.
It's a vivid image, one that can conjure fond memories of my own children at that age … an image which blurs the barriers of time, magically joining past, present and future in one happy amalgam.
I'm one of those folks who looks forward not only to fair events, but to fair food as well.
You can probably hear my arteries clogging from there, but I've come to love deep fried Oreos, Philly cheesesteaks, greasy french fries, sausage and peppers.
My favorite stops along the midway, however, never change. I always visit the Honesdale Area Jaycees food stand for chicken fingers and fries. And, I never forget to grab a slice of pizza from Tom Box's booth under the grandstand.
Dessert, of course, is always one legendary ice cream sandwich bought from the nice ladies at the Bethany United Methodist Church stand.
When I was a kid, my parents were forever telling their three precocious boys that, NO, we would not be buying a bunny rabbit at the fair that year.
I spent a great deal of time on Thursday visiting the animals, both furry and feathery. I then wandered over to the livestock arena to watch a gaggle of intrepid 4-H'ers
These are some of my favorite kids: hard-working, dedicated, clear-eyed and optimistic. They are the future of farming in NEPA and I raise my bottle of Dr. Pepper to them
It's a well-timed reminder that Wayne County was built on agriculture. No matter how “modern” we become, it's farmers and 4-H'ers who are define our past, solidify our present and ensure our future.
Appropriately enough, I had one last memorable experience this year at the Wayne County Fair.
I was peering intently through my camera lens as five 2-year-olds roared down the stretch in the Clarence & Peggy Martin Memorial Pace.
This was to be the last heat of harness racing for 2017, so the air was tinged with a mixture of excitement and melancholy.
As the drivers piloted their horses home, my attention was riveted to the finish line … so much so that I almost didn't notice an amazing occurrence.
Just as Tony Schadel steered Legendary Ron to victory, I felt something bounce off my sneaker. I looked down to see a horse shoe spinning at my feet.
I picked it up, dusted it off and packed it away in my camera bag. The shoe now has a permanent place of honor in my living room.
It's in a spot near the front door … perfectly situated so that it's visible when I come in from shoveling my driveway during January (or March!) blizzards.
I will be looking at it fondly while taking off my hat and gloves … a happy reminder that sun-drenched summer days at the Wayne County Fair aren't long away.