I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard….County Fair by Phil Alvin
‘Riding high, high on the Ferris Wheel’
I’m sure most people have happy memories of some form of fairs growing up. Local ones that were usually smaller affairs, right on up to the larger County or State Fairs. I certainly remember the one we used to have once a year in our school yard as a fund raiser. It was a small lot, but every inch of it was taken over for the fair, and I can still remember it clearly in my mind. The fact that for that one week it was running that we could not play stickball or hang out on the lot was no problem. There was a fair at our school! That small lot transformed into what it seemed like were miles of attractions in our young minds. It all started at the community hall, which was taken over with the more grown up 50/50 raffles and other ways to part with your money.
Outside the hall were the row of games for the kids. Water pistols, throwing the hoop over the peg, and spinning wheel types of games. I remember the preferred prize at that time were novelty elongated Coke and Pepsi bottles. I think I still had one such bottle won at the fair in my room for years afterwords in fact. Past the games were the food trailers, with the tasty, but oh so terrible food for you-Corndogs, Cotton Candy, Zeppole’s, Funnel Cakes, and other ‘delicacies’. Truth be told, whenever I pass through a fair these days I say screw the healthy eating for once and indulge in many of those delicacies for just that one day.
Past the food were a handful of rides, which we pestered our parents to get lots of tickets for to ride with our friends. There was a rotor ride, where the floor dropped out after attaining a certain speed, a swing ride, a carousel for the young ones, and of course, a Ferris Wheel, towering above the school itself. There was even a Haunted House. It may have only been a trailer with a bunch of mildly scary things popping out making noise, and it was the same every year, but you still went. Thinking back now, the fair was in reality just a bunch of things squeezed together as tightly as possible in a small place. But it was something we all looked forward to every year when we were younger. I think we would wind up going nearly every night, just because it had that air of something different to do.
Of course in the song County Fair, Phil Alvin is singing about something much larger than our little school fair growing up in Demarest, New Jersey, but I think the same joys and excitement apply no matter the size. What I have always loved about them is that it is a type of place where people are almost universally happy. Kids running around-one minute games, the next some food, the next a ride, before the cycle starts all over again, along with a plea for more money from mom and dad. In the larger County and State Fairs there are many more things to do, for the young and old. Contests, concerts and attractions add to the atmosphere, and I think it was this that must have inspired Phil Alvin.
If the name is unfamiliar to you, Phil got his start along with his brother Dave with the L.A. based band The Blasters in the 1980’s. Its hard to classify The Blasters musically. The Alvin brothers grew up on a healthy diet of blues, but in the nascent L.A. music scene, The Blasters somehow found an audience among the many punk groups on the rise at that time. In reality, they may have had a punk sensibility, but the music was pure American roots music. Despite being critically acclaimed they never quite found their way into the mainstream success they deserved. The song County Fair comes from a solo album of Phil’s by the same name. One of the things I love about these Photo Shuffles is that it reminds me of things I have not played myself in quite some time. When this song popped up this morning, I knew exactly what photo I could pair this up. Most of the time I really have to think about these, but this time it was easy. It was also a delight reminiscing back to another area of my childhood I have not thought about in years.
What are your own memories of Fairs growing up yourself?
County Fair-Written By J.E. Mainer & Phil Alvin
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle
*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.
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