Karen and The County Fair, Karen Series Part 7 of 10

Note: please see previous posts to catch up – they are a series that all tie together!

If there was one thing Karen loved, it was the County Fair. And if you have ever been to Fairfield County in Lancaster Ohio, you will know that it is the most beautiful county fair in the entire country.

fairgroundsThis fair is the last one in the state of Ohio for the year and always happens in early October. The fairgrounds is situated at the base of a local landmark, Mount Pleasant. The grounds feature an historic round Cattle Barn and a horse race track like no other. In fact, these grounds were used as a backdrop in the Robert Redford movie Brubaker because they are so iconic-ly beautiful. If you are from Lancaster Ohio, you simply love the fair. And Karen really LOVED the fair.

Me… I was into art from an early age and part of the fair is an art competition. It is strictly small potatoes as far as the art world at large goes, but having a prize-winning artwork in the fair was always good for local recognition. EVERYBODY goes to the fair and EVERYBODY checks out the barns where the art displays and grand prize pies and beautiful canned goods are on show with prize-winning ribbons attached.

So every year I would pick up the booklet that outlined competition guidelines and pay a small fee to be able to enter all kind of contests. The entry fee was a bargain because when you paid it, you got a fair pass good for free entry to the fair each day plus parking. So you really weren’t out anything at all – and if you won a prize you’d get a few bucks on top of that! And back then, a $25 prize went a long way. Also, you might even get your photo in the paper and of course everyone in town would know you were on the fast track to being talented and famous. Just like Mayberry RFD. And I’m not kidding in the least. This was serious local business.

Anyway, Karen and I got to talking about the fair and I mentioned to her all the perks I got from entering my artwork each year. She couldn’t believe you could enter some small thing and get a free pass to the fair all week. How was that possible? I assured her it was. And then we didn’t talk any more about it.

So in the early 80s I was still on a mission to win a lot of fair prizes. I would draw and paint and bake and sew and enter every category I could. Man I wanted to win! And it only cost a few bucks to be part of the action. But the funny thing was, I didn’t like the fair itself all that well. I just liked all the arty competitions and couldn’t wait to get there to see how it all played out.

One year, I anxiously got in on my free pass and made my way to the barn where all the exhibits were. I’m sure I got a paper cone of French fries with malt vinegar along the way – and probably a slice of pizza – but what I really salivated over was the home and garden and art displays. Finally I walked through the door and the first display right in front of me was photography. I stopped to take a look.

I hadn’t entered anything in the photography division so imagine my surprise when I saw a photo of my three kids that I had taken in the field out back of my current house. It was a great picture. And there it was with a first place ribbon on it in its category. I stood and stared for a moment because I didn’t remember entering it. And then I saw it…

blueribbonFirst Place… Family Photos… Karen Wohrer of Lancaster Ohio…

Whaaattttt????

I read it again. Photo by Karen Wohrer. My kids. Her name.

And then all I could do was laugh out loud. That devil Karen had entered the photo to get that free fair and parking pass for the whole week of the fair! And she didn’t know she would actually win anything – she just wanted that cheapo fair admittance! So now imagine her surprise when I called her up and congratulated her on her winning photo!

“Oh geez…” she said. “I just wanted that pass and I didn’t think you would ever find out!”

“Karen…” I replied. “I’m good. I usually win stuff. But you didn’t know that and I understand.”

“Wanna go to the fair with me?” she asked. “I’ll buy you whatever you want to eat. And we can park for free…”

“Sure,” I said. “But I’m not riding any of those goofy rides that they set up and tear down every week because I don’t trust them. All I want is some good fair food. And you’re buying.”

And we did. And it was another thing that bound us together and made us laugh. Really, what are friends for?

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