The Darke County Fair


What can I say about the Darke County Fair?  Growing up I heard it put two different ways – “The World’s Greatest County Fair”, or “The World’s Best County Fair” – pick one.  And since everything seemed bigger when I was littler, I used to claim it as the “World’s Biggest County Fair”, as well.

I was an excitable kid.  Certain types of fun related activities could jack me into orbit.  As these fun related days drew near, I would start having difficulties sleeping.  The night before Christmas lit me up like a Christmas Tree, every year.  The night before Christmas was always a sleepless night – as was the night before we left for summer vacation.

But the night before the Darke County Fair opened her welcoming gates for admittance was the most exciting night of my life, year in and year out, every year, for roughly six years (from about third grade through eighth).

The Darke County Fair created in me a positive state of mind for two reasons – one, it lasted for ten days, and two, there were a million cool things to do.

In order to feed my habit (I was addicted to having fun) I started saving money for my various Fair escapades and exploits the day after it ended.

My parents lovingly provided for all of my needs throughout the year, you know, like clothes, room and board and stuff like that but fulfilling my wants (toys, junk food, thrill rides at the fair, etc.) came out of my discretionary income fund/s.

You may ask yourself at this point, “how does a third grader build discretionary income?”  Well, it’s really quite simple, actually.  First, one must accumulate said income, and secondly, one must save said income for a future planned activity.  Or, to use a psychological term, one must incorporate the practice of deferred gratification.

I built my discretionary income fund (throughout the year) via four revenue streams.  I saved my paper-route money (Dayton Daily News), my lawncare coinage, my leaf-raking duckets, and my snow-removal cash for future adventures and countless other escapades.

I spent my little person life growing up in G-Ville.  We lived at 641 Chestnut St., situated a block or so from the Brethren Home.  And from there, I could walk to the fair in five minutes.  And since no one abducted little kids back in 1958, a third grader virtually had full run of the town, even unaccompanied by an adult or authority figure.  At the tender age of eight, I could spend as much time at the fair as I deemed so.  The only limitation placed on myself was of a practical nature.  I did not return home from the fair until my daily allotment of money ran out.

I had a small posse of peeps I Fair-ed with every year and we would parcel out our money to last all day, if possible.  This could usually be accomplished by walking back to my place for both lunch and dinner, thus eating for free, and by limiting ourselves to spending only X number of dollars per hour.  If I wished to spend 12 hours at the fair (let’s say from ten in the morning to ten at night) then I had to stretch my funds such that they covered the time period in question.  My goal was to spend less than or close to one dollar an hour.

Of course, a buck in 1958 could stretch across an hour fairly easily.  Snow cones, for example, were only a dime.  Or I could buy a giant lemonade (full of sugar) for the same price.  Funnel Cakes were also cheap as were deep fried donuts, slices of pie, saltwater taffy, caramel corn, ice-cream cones, slices of pizza, giant cokes, cotton candy, and my personal fave, greasy French fries soaked in vinegar and covered with salt.

Basically, my day was not complete until I developed a stomachache later that night from consuming too much sugar, fat and salt – my three main food groups back in the day.

However, eating fair related junk food was not my favorite thing to do at the fair.  No, that distinction was reserved for riding rides.

I loved/lived for riding scary rides when I was a kid.  I enjoyed scaring myself, in general.  I was drawn to scary movies where monsters ran amuck.  I was drawn to riding my bike too fast.  I jumped out of tall trees.  I jumped off of bridges into streams below.  I played chicken with oncoming trains on the railroad tracks near my house.  I rode my snow sled down dangerous hills, feeding into streets below.  I ventured into condemned houses allegedly hosting evil spirits.  And the list goes on and on because it is legion.

I loved riding the Roundabout because it made me dizzy.  I enjoyed riding the Octopus because the centrifugal force jammed me into the corner of the seat.  The Mighty Mouse single car roller coaster was a fave of mine because it was slightly scary; it rattled such that it felt like the car could jump the tracks at any moment.

But the ride that scared the ever-loving bejesus out of me was the Roll O Plane, or the Bullet as I referenced it.  This particular ride scared me every single time I rode it.  Truth be told, I had to work up to it as the day passed.  I would walk around the ride, off and on all day, trying to visualize my getting onboard.  Hearing other kids screaming from fright during the ride did not deter me from riding it myself but it certainly made climbing aboard more difficult.

I had a few friends who never set foot on this ride, but I won’t name names.  But this meant that some years I rode the beast tamer alone.  And this was always harder because there’s safety in numbers.

Do some of you within the sound of my voice have some really cool Darke County Fair stories?  I mean, after all, we’re talking about the Greatest County Fair in the World.  And if you ponder the matter, it might just be the Greatest County Fair in the entire known Universe.  Think about it for a sec – what are the chances that another planet exists in our Universe that is broken up into counties, one of which has a county fair.  My guess is that this number is zero.

I hope to see some of you at the fair this year.  And if I do, I’ll win you a walking cane if so asked.  I’m really good at that game.  Okay, perhaps it’s just luck, but I will win you a cane, nevertheless.  Until that time –

Peace out, folks

Postscript – if the dunking tank game finds its way back to the Fair this year, I will most certainly find my way to the game to try and dunk any kid sitting atop the trap-seat.  And if so, I hope the kid insults me – ha.