We often went to the Fair as kids, but then high school activities and early college startups blocked that part of our schedule. The normal amounts of chaos Up the Lake should have kept focused on the mountain for a while once we graduated...but we liked to expand our horizons.
A typical four day Up the Lake normally had enough bizarre happenings to generate prime humorous commentary.
One random selection provided the following gems, which turned out to be nothing next to the renewed excursion that took place over that time.
Pre-teen Ashley, on a quest for a bailer, managed to fall into, out of, and sink a couple rowboats a dozen times in the course of an hour.
Four year old Nicole jumped on me for a piggy back ride, but refused to hold on, leaving me bent at a right angle at the waist while she lounged on my back, talking to people, and holding court like Cleopatra as the feeling slowly left my feet.
An impressive attempt to burn an old bed and box spring in a campfire eventually required the assistance of fifty-seven people and enough wood to build bunks, barracks, and an obstacle course for an entire platoon of marines.
Of Course, the extended weekend began with a near disaster upon my arrival Wednesday night. My Mother needed a tree over the parking spaces cut down immediately. Despite the facts:
(A) It was raining;
(B) It was dark;
(C) It was alive;
(D) It was directly over the only place to stand to cut it;
(E) It was too heavy to move once it fell;
(F) It resisted the dull saw and fractured axe;
(G) It was done with assistance from nine year old Joey, who helpfully shined a flashlight in my eyes throughout the attempt.
Yet that tale of failed lumberjacking paled in comparison with the adventures which occurred at an out of nowhere decision to return to the Duchess County Fair.
Ah...the Duchess County fair: We used to go every year as kids, up to our early teen years when our parents would let us roam free. Surely the vendors, ride operators and midway denizens had forgotten us by now, and it was safe to come back. How could a return after a fifteen year layover possibly have been anything but fantastic?
Although it was raining as we set out that Thursday morning, we were armed with the knowledge that it “would clear up.” We headed north on Route 9, stopping only for a traditional blast of nutrition at McDonald’s Cardiac Arrest Breakfast. From our family was: my sister and I, and also my high school age cousin Lauren. The other family of people was Joe (of musical B B Gun Tag Fame) and Ann, their three kids: Ashley, Joey and Nicole, plus Joe’s sister Chrissy, and her baby Jackie. (Keep this paragraph handy as a scorecard for later in the story).
Not to spoil the ending but it did clear up...as soon as we returned home, and pretty much stayed clear for the rest of the weekend we were Up the Lake and away from Duchess County.
At the Fair it rained continuously, that cold misty rain that kind of hangs in the air, so every minute you paradoxically think,
“I am as wet as possible,”
“I am wetter than I was a minute ago.”
This aided the overwhelmingly cheerful atmosphere of the day, and greatly increased the fragrances emanating from both the livestock, and some of the individuals we encountered (more on that later).
It was obvious nothing had changed as we drove through the sole traffic light in Rhinebeck, New York on our way to the fields surrounding the fairgrounds. There, seventeen Row Nazis in their orange shirts went through agonizing and complex directions to get us all to park in the most confusing of all geometric shapes: the line.
Yes, the atmosphere was as we remembered.
For example: where else could you hear someone say,
“Hoooo-eeee, did you see the size o’ them tomaters!?!?”
And really mean it.
NOTE: This was not even said near the tomatoes, but far away, over by the cows.
The impact was lost on me, and I did see them tomaters, several plates of them.
In fact, the blue ribbon winner was sitting right next to a non winning plate of IDENTICAL tomaters.
Also the second place entry was bright yellow, which to my untrained eye, was not the proper color for a standard tomato. Apparently these people are privy to advanced horticultural knowledge that I had no access to in those pre Food Network days, or they were color blind.
Upon flowing out of our vehicles, we entered the Fair proper and began our return by visiting the craft tents, and vendor barns.
I apologized for bringing no souvenirs back at the cabins, but everything available was:
And usually a combination of all three.
Therefore, we quickly headed over to the rides and Midway Area.
Frankly I’d seen the blueprints for those traveling carnival rides in an AP Physics class back in High School. I was not, nor have I ever been in the 90% standard size bracket. The fact that the machinery was all soaking wet didn’t increase my confidence that a large, bulky juggling engineer was what they had in mind when calculating safety factors. I was also fully aware (and passed this knowledge on to my child during her visits) that the people running the rides are often the ones that put them together.
I abstained from the flippy, spinny, “butt over your head” rides my sister and cousin were trying. Then we went over to the walk through “fun” houses, obviously constructed in a far off fantasy heavy time, before lawsuits, and not repaired, maintained, or even painted since the Kennedy administration.
Yes they all looked quite groovy, funky, and “hep”.
The one I braved consisted of many sets of wet rollers on the floor, made of soft cushiony aluminum. These were followed by several moving floor and stair sections, which allowed the comfort of pulling a muscle while standing completely still. There were also spinning floor sections which provided the experience of the thrill of motion sickness before propelling you into a wall - also thoughtfully cushioned with aluminum siding.
As I reached the end I saw Joe, Nicole and Kim sitting on a metal bench. A door between us closed; there was a clunk, three yells, and then the sound of Nicole crying.
Encouraged by the sounds of fun and frolic, I sat in the chair when the door reopened and faced a wall with some less than useful instructions. The wall opened and fired me out of the chair like a soggy, garishly painted, inadequately padded aluminum catapult. I scored some serious hang time, before my posterior was forcibly introduced to the (you guessed it) aluminum roller, at the top of a check-out-line style, wet, sloping conveyor belt.
There was an equally pleasant drop onto a second belt, and then we were all out of the house and in a strategically placed mud puddle. This was a feature of every ride that day, their planning skills were magnificent.
While I was attempting to deal with my hydraulically induced “wedgie” some others who felt they hadn’t been abused by ugly wheezing machinery went into another fun house. It looked similar, but ended with one of those barrel things. One Fair going fool, in an exquisite display of guy-ness, put his arms and legs out in an X and tried to spin all the way around. At the 180-degree point he acrobatically dismounted, onto his head, causing everyone else in there to be tangled together on the floor of the rain and mud soaked barrel. Wee!
The rain increased the walk through rides’ thrills somewhat, but this was nothing compared with its effect on the powered rides. Water leaked through every possible nook and cranny to the point that, instead of the occasional spark, the tops of the bumper cars were emitting constant electrical fountains turning the inside roof into an arena of battling comets in a greasy night sky.
Up the Lake Index