Each year I go to the fair. It’s a summer ritual, that I look forward to, and plan for. The Northwest Washington Fair, often called TheLynden Fair, is a classic old time country fair and is about thirty minutes from where I live, and I’ve gone just about every year, since we moved here 13 years ago. For a long time our trips to the fair were marked by child-centered activities: which rides could they go on, what sugary thing could they try, and how long would they hold up? Back then I longed for some time to just peruse the animal barns, check out the winning quilts and visit the sea of vendors– all of which my kids found horribly boring. Instead, it was a battery of questions, and pleas for things that only came at the fair.

“Mom, can I get a cotton Candy? An elephant ear? Some curly fries?”

“Mom can we ride the Graviton? The Ring of Fire? The Tilt’a Whirl?”

“Mom, am I tall enough to ride this one?” They stood on tippy toe, hoping.

“Mom, can I bring a friend?” Always a friend who didn’t have a ride.

“Mom, my friends and I want to go to the fair; will you drive?” Or, several friends–

“Mom, I’m meeting my friends at the fair… could you please not hang around us?”

“Mom, the barns are boring! All my friends are at the rides.” Of course.

“Mom, I’m starving! Can we get a turkey leg– it’s protein! Mini donuts?”

“Mom, can I have some money for…” The fair… is very expensive!

There was always an endless list of must haves at the fair; thankfully it only came once a year, and I was never afraid of the word no.

It was often so hot that I wanted to leave, as soon as I got there– the heat amplified by the straw, the dust and and the dry grass all around. But deep down, I loved being there as much as my kids did.  I would follow them around, waiting as they road the rides and bellowed that they were doing it again. I’d get dizzy just watching them spin and flip and do it again, over and over. We generally went with friends, and the adults would stand around tisk tisk’ing the poor choices made by the teenagers– checking out who was there with who, and what they were wearing. We watched our own kids turn green– even as they pleaded to keep going. Their determination and energy was boundless, each year a the fair. I waited, and followed and paid and waved, patiently, hoping that somewhere in the day/night, we’d wander into the barns, and see the animals.

“Let’s go look at the horses,” I’d coax. “I love the way they braid the horses’ manes, and the lambs are so cute!”

“The animals are boring! Want to come on the Ferris Wheel with us?”

“I think it was Socrates that something about all the world being in the eyes of a cow.”

They rolled their eyes at my feeble attempts. “We’re hungry!”

Let’s face it however, without the food and the rides, the fair would just be a farm. It’s the one time of year that we buy lots of junk and celebrate getting it! Outside of Disney, where else do you get a 2 lb. turkey leg?

I learned to park in the back lots, so that we had to pass by the barns coming in and going out. It helped my chances of breezing through a few of them, one way or another. Inevitably, my kids would venture through the barns with me, when they were sick from eating too much starchy, sugary food, and riding one too many upside down, twisty machines. They never admitted defeat, but came along to see the animals as if doing me a favor. Of course they enjoyed the animals too. But for me, this is the best part of the fair. I could watch the baby goats scramble over each other for hours. The pigs amazed me– their violent tussles and their lazy slumber. The ravenous piglet who  are  perpetually suckling from an exhausted sow. The cows and horses are my always my favorite– the cows, with their enormous, soulful eyes, and the horses with their beautiful coats and elegant rink maneuvers. I love the smell of a barn, the light, the memories that are evoked.

One year we saw a baby cow being born. They added a “birthing barn” a few years ago, and if you’re lucky, you might see a an animal being born. This calf was stuck– breach, in its mother. I watched in amazement as the vet attached chains and pulled the calf out by it’s little hooves, feeling a certain maternal connection to the wild-eyed mother. My son Middle Man, watched in silent horror, though he was long old enough to know how babies were born– human or animal. Those are memories with my children, in a place I love, that I will always hold dear.

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This year I went to the fair with a good friend. We’ve gone together nearly every year for the last eight years, but this year, neither one of us had kids to take. Mine are gone, off exploring the world, or figuring out college. Hers are still in high school, but past the point when going to the fair with your mom is acceptable. Admittedly, it all felt a little different. We stayed away from the rides, and I wouldn’t recognize any of the teenagers at this point, anyway. We shared a turkey leg, some mini-donuts and an elephant ear, over the course of the day– after all, it’s still about the food. We took our time looking at the blue ribbon quilts, the collections, and the artwork– not feeling rushed or pulled. We visited the rodeo to watch a shortened version of the big show that would be performed over the weekend. But we took our time in the barns. We watched young riders compete on horseback in the main rink; strolled along as stalls were mucked out, and watched baby animals play, without feeling any pressure to be somewhere else. We remembered the years we’d brought our kids, but also enjoyed the freedom to take our time and enjoy all the other great things at the fair that we wanted to see.

Time shifts; the lay of the land changes, but the fair is still how I mark the end of my summer. It’s a symbolic heralding of a change in season, leaves changing color, and my kids moving on. This year at the fair, there were no kids with us, and while that was a little bitter sweet, it’s also just fine. We enjoyed it on our own terms, and had a blast.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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23 Responses to Fairly…

  1. susanissima says:

    How lovely that you went even without your kids and that the fair continues to be a tradition you celebrate, Dawn. In Fairbanks, the fair was fun this year, as well, especially the reindeer area and the salmon dinner. 🙂


  2. sara says:

    Goodness, it seems kids and country fairs are the same the world over. I was so sick of the heat, the junk food, the carnies flogging their cheap wares to the kids, the endless requests last time that I swore I wouldn’t come next time…maybe that’s even true. I like to watch the wood chopping, see the hand made stuff and the dressage…


    • There’s some magic at the Fair… or there is at ours. It’s a real country fair, and I love that. It’s different than an “carnival.” I know I’ll eat a lot of crap, but I’ll also enjoy baby goats, piglets, beautiful horses, llamas, etc… It’s a tradition now. Thanks Sara!


  3. Mike Lince says:

    Your are right, it is a fun fair. I had the privilege of going with two little boys, my grandsons. The youngest is 2 y.o. and he was fascinated by the baby animals. The oldest, of course, wanted to go on the rides. It was fun watching him on the bumper cars. He was with his Grandma, who took him to the demolition derby. Car crashes are the perfect activity for an 8 y.o. Me – I was just looking for shade. It was the hottest day of the year. It was also the funnest! Your photos were a fun reminder of my visit to your neck of the woods. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 – Mike


    • I think I went on the bumper cars and the mini-roller coaster… so many of those rides, for years! It was definitely a different bag altogether when my kids were little. So many oohs and aaahs. As they got older, the focus changed, but it was still a fun tradition. Now, I’ll go with friends and enjoy what I like. 😉 I love that you got to go with your grandsons. I bet they’ll remember too!


  4. I wish I could go to the Lynden fair, but it would have to be without my son. He has a tough time with crowds at fairs. But if it weren’t too crowded, he’d definitely love the rides. Maybe I can get him to go if his older cousin (5 years older) would go too. Love the pictures and the video; especially the curly fries and the dahlia. I’d love to check out the quilts. Growing up, my father would always take the month of August off work, and we would go to our family cottage on the coast of Maine. Leaving the cottage always meant back to school, and it was hard to leave the ocean.


    • I think traditions are so meaningful… for so many reasons. Susan, I’d urge you to take your son, with his cousin, and see how he does. There are quieter days there; don’t go on a weekend. I bet he’d love the animals too. There are “collections,” that mostly kids enter. Just a cool place!


  5. Dawn, It’s been years since I went to a state fair. We didn’t live close to where there was one, so we didn’t go much. They are interesting and enjoyable. It’s great if you live fairly close. 🙂 —Susan


  6. That was a delightful time at the fair with you; thanks for taking me along. Your descriptions are so beautiful and detailed that I could see everything you spoke about as if I really were there.
    I remember the first time I went on the bumper cars as child. I was so insulted when someone had the audacity to bump right into my car intentionally that I walked out of my car, causing a riot of supervisors running into the circle to coax me back into the car.


  7. Lovely post and great that you still go even without the kids. I loved fairs as a kid and my own kids liked the state fairs but wanted to do the things like rides and midway that I hated– whereas I loved the animals. And of course, cotton candy and fried dough!


  8. Tammi Kale says:

    This sounds and looks exactly like my hometown Cleveland County Fair – even down to the 2 lb turkey legs and Graviton…..


    • When it’s done right, the country fair is one of the best things I know! It’s the carnivals that get exceedingly seedy… Thanks for stopping by Tales From the Motherland, Tammi. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!


  9. hbksloss says:

    Your post brings back lovely memories of taking our kids to the state and county fairs whereever we lived. Me wanting to see the 4H displays, them overstimulated on sugar and heat. But as they got older, and confessed that they didn’t like the rides or the food or the crowds, it got harder and harder to get them to go with me. Now it has been over 10 years since I last corralled my family into accompanying me to one. Your post inspires me to find a friend to go with to next year’s country fair!


    • Honestly, it was a little bitter sweet this year, but I imagine that my friend(s) and I will form a new ritual, and enjoy the fair for the things we love to do. One day, I’ll take my grandchildren there… but I’ll wait for that. 😉


  10. What a great way to mark the end of summer. I must admit to never having gone to our show without the kids. But the girls loved the animals and the things I liked to see, too. You’ve inspired me to go next year.


  11. jquyle says:

    Sounds like your fair is much better than ours. Ours is always so over crowded that its like standing in line at Disney during the busy season and just wishing you had a fast pass. In fact, I think they sell fast passes at our fair for those that would rather skip the line. The vendors and barns are always one of my favorite as well. Not so much as a kid though. But, every year they remove some of the more popular attractions to make room for smaller, less desirable rides, while at the same time raising the prices. We’ve had a birthing tent at ours ever since I was little. I’ve seen quit a few cows born. Instead of mini horse races, we have pot belly pig races. lol


    • Justin, thanks for stopping by! I love that you left a comment. 🙂 We are very lucky here. The NW WA Fair is still a very 4H based, old time fair. There is a “midway” with lots of rides, but theres much more space given to animals, vendors, performers, etc… It really is special! We don’t have pot belly pigs racing, but we do have little kids riding bucking/running sheep! One things the same: they’re all expensive, that’s for sure! Thanks for taking the time; it’s much appreciated. xo



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