Fried food, fun at the fair
Smell that? It’s the heady mixture of funnel cake, straw and caramel corn . . . with, perhaps, the subtle undertone of an animal barn. It’s unmistakable — and unmistakably fall. It’s time for the fair! This weekend (Sept. 15-18) marks the return of the Charles County Fair, followed by the St. Mary’s County Fair (Sept. 22-25) and Calvert County Fair (Sept. 28-Oct. 2). Wherever you call home, it’s sure to be a good time.
Our county event at the La Plata fairgrounds is an annual tradition as comforting as an old patchwork quilt. I love it for many reasons, not the least of which is the chance to run into people I haven’t seen in ages — former classmates, coworkers, teachers — while spending a day in the community. It’s tough to go a few feet without spotting someone you know.
It’s also one of the rare times I see extended families together — all united in their common goal to defeat one another in carnival games. Winners get to cart home an additional passenger: a giant stuffed gorilla, carried back in a victory lap to the family car.
Unsurprisingly, my fair experience is usually all about the food. I tried an array of fried stuff years back — thick in the middle of my weight-loss days, ironically — and have had a hard time forgetting about fried Oreos since. They’re not something I eat daily, of course . . . mostly because I can’t find them. If I could, I doubt I’d ever touch a green bean again. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
Going to the fair has taken on a new dimension as a parent. Though our son isn’t ready to enjoy carnival rides just yet, we’re excited to take him back this year — his second fair — to marvel at all the animals and flashing lights.
Like many toddlers, Oliver is curious and strong-willed. He has plenty of opinions and has figured out “nooooo” — complete with a shake of the head — in response to most suggestions, including but not limited to eating his Nutrigrain bar or detaching himself from the babygate which blocks him from a tempting flight of stairs.
An Ollie wants to do what an Ollie wants to do. Unfortunately, his desires don’t always align with ours.
He’s now rebelling against the stroller. It’s not the stroller’s fault — it’s just that it has restraints that . . . well, that actually restrain him. He likes to play with the buckles and straps, but not if they’re physically strapping him in. Ollie doesn’t want to be contained.
At almost a year and a half old, this is a new phenomenon. Oliver’s motor skills sharpened a bit later than other kids his age, so he was perfectly content to be plopped down in carts or car seats and just hang out while we ran around. He was rolling, but just barely; he was sitting up, but not quite independently. So he stayed where we put him. It was marvelous. Friends and family warned us that when Oliver started to really move, we might look back longingly on the days when he wouldn’t wrestle to get out of his high chair. And they were right. As a new parent, I was bogged down with worry that he was “behind” — but I’ve since released so much of that unnecessary fretting, accepting that all things come in time.
Oliver is dangerously close to walking — and a little dangerous in general. He rolls, kicks, pulls to stand, somersaults and generally propels himself through life like an aspiring gymnast. I often look over to find him with feet planted and head on the floor, attempting a headstand. He gets pretty close.
So Ollie is unrestrained. His daycare provider reported she has no trouble getting him to hang in a pack-and-play, which shocked me. He will never tolerate being in a playpen at home. I asked for her secret — and there isn’t one, I guess. We let Ollie roam free at home, basically boundary-less, but she does not.
And now? Now we’ve created an adorable, independent, quick-moving monster.
A day at the fair sounds idyllic to me, but I know our wrestler-in-training is going to be scheming ways to escape his stroller. As soon as he gets a look at the chickens, games or Ferris wheel, Oliver will be intent on getting closer. He’ll point, then shout, then squirm to get out of the stroller and ultimately out of my arms until I’m sweating with the effort to contain him — and probably attracting an audience. That’s where his father steps in.
But no shenanigans will dampen our fun. I’m sure we’ll spend the afternoon pointing out every tractor, face painter and merry-go-round for Ollie’s entertainment.
And ours. Watching my son take in the world is one of my favorite pastimes.
Best enjoyed with funnel cake and fried Oreos, of course.
Oliver with a prize his dad won him at last year’s Charles County Fair