For me, the month of August is synonymous with fairs. As a kid growing up in San Jose in the 1960s, I made regular visits to the Santa Clara County Fair in late summer. As soon as school let out for summer vacation, we’d begin looking forward to it, saving our hard-earned wages from summer jobs. Once it arrived, we’d beg our parents to drop us off time and time again so we could wander aimlessly, gorge ourselves madly and spend our money on every sort of bizarre ride or item.
When I was just out of seventh grade, we arranged to go one evening at the same time as some girls from our class; we drifted through the grounds in an excited hormonal haze. Several kids in our group purchased a lizard-on-a-leash. A tiny chameleon, actually, could be bought that had a small leash cinched around its neck, at the end of which was a safety pin to attach the poor creature to its owner’s clothing. Turtles could also be won if you tossed a coin correctly. Fortunately, you can’t gamble to win turtles or buy lizards on a string anymore.
Another favorite were the rings. My young friends and I bought simulated silver rings and had our names individually engraved on them. What was really boss (aka neat) about them was that the engraving exactly matched our handwriting. At the time we’d developed what we thought were quite hip signatures. We thought it quite cool to see our handwritten signatures immortalized and forked over the sky-high price of $5. Note that I said the rings were of “simulated” silver. This I know because after wearing my very cool ring for about 48 hours, I developed a rash from the metal encircling my ring finger, and it prevented me from wearing it again. Some of the guys later used the rings to “go” with a girl, but mine never left the drawer after I became allergic to it.
The California State Fair reigns supreme in Sacramento, and its zillion attractions draw visitors from throughout the state each year. Although there won’t be lassoed reptiles at this year’s California State Fair, no doubt there will be unique jewelry and handmade art and things to see and do. (See our feature on page 104 to meet some of the people you may see at this year’s state fair.) This fair has been a part of our now-grown kids’ lives since they, too, were preteens, and my wife and I still enjoy going. Every sort of food is available, including grilled corn-on-the-cob, giant pickles, corn dogs and barbecued everything. It’s hard to beat going to the fair, especially in the evening as the cooling breezes kick in. We like to wander aimlessly, visiting whatever catches our eye. Granted, early on, we typically find ourselves in the award-winning California wine tasting bar, but we also enjoy seeing the livestock, the counties exhibits, the art shows, the ever-present hawkers. Although I’ll miss the tethered lizards, it’ll still be fun.