We live in Nevada County, California, home of the best county fair in the world. Last year I took my son, Jules, and the two of us spent the whole day riding rides. We stopped for food and treats twice and tried walking around to see the animals, but we both knew where our hearts were. They were at the top of the brand new log flume. A towering beauty, blue and gleaming in the hot midday sun. It’s friendly blue splashing waiting for us to partake in the fun-filled adventure inside of a floating plastic log. We rode it 5 times. My son is a bit of a fraidy cat like I was at his age. Very timid children. But I love riding rides more than most anything else in the world. I was very careful to craft the discussion that would end with him happily enjoying a ride instead of him bolting and hiding behind a corndog stand.
Jules had just turned five and was now tall enough to ride on a good selection of rides. A few of the less intense grown-up rides were now fair game for us. He was barely past the 36 inches that he needed to safely ride the rides and we were both stoked. I ran some quick growth estimate figures in my head. So, if he’s 5 and 36 inches now, then in x years he will be tall enough to ride the zipper… so I have that many years to get up the courage to ride in one of those things again. I didn’t come up with any significant figures and nothing made sense but I did know that right now, we got to ride the log run, which was a new arrival and had never been featured at our fair before. It was beautiful. Jules looked unsure. He watched the people scream, and the fast drop, and the big splash. He had a lot of questions like he always does but these ones were exceptionally good. Does it hurt? Is the water cold? Do you get wet? Do your feet get wet? What do you hold on to? Does it go fast? (This is my reality, people, just being real) I answered them all one by one, giving him rational, reasonable answers in an appropriate language that he could understand. We turned and walked in a different direction, with the log flume heavy on his heart.
As we walked holding hands through the games area. (Oh btw, can we think about using an alternative to “carnie”? I’m not a big fan, ride operator is the preferred nomenclature, man! *passes bong* Anyway, as we were walking through, there I saw it. Himalaya….she was beautiful.
If you’ve been to a few county fairs and/or amusement parks you may be familiar with Himalaya. It’s a circular coaster that are driven by rotating arms in the center. You sit side by side with another person and you are thrown to the outside of the car while music blares impossibly loud and random sirens and honking goes off and you are dazzled by a thousand little twinkling and flashing lights. It’s a sensation. I’ve been on them plenty of times. I love them for their simplicity and their unapologetic garishness that only a county fair ride could pull off. I love the vibrating floor, and the stupid loud music and how nonchalant the guy who buckles your seat belt is. I love it all.
I ran up with Jules and excitedly asked him if he would ride it with me. I told him it was going to be fast and loud and he might feel like he’s being squished real hard. He wanted to try it. He sat bravely in the seat as serious as I’ve ever seen him. He rode it. It shook him up a bit, but he wanted to go again later. He was a trooper. He survived and he was ready for the log flume.
We waited a bit and he jumped in the log. He was quiet on the ride up. I held his hand and told him what would happen next. He loved it, I assumed, as he got off screaming and giggling with glee. We rode it five more times.
Later, he was struck by the moving and grooving of a nearby Zumba class. He and I danced in the back and attacted a crowd until a spectator took his hand and asked for a dance.
We had ice cream and corn dogs that day, and visited with my amazing friend Wendy who was working there. Incredible memories to keep me going. But best of all it was a day that I spent sharing a passion with my kid.
Today it’s mid-August 2020, and it feels like we should be there now. Of course, that isn’t possible in our brave new world.
I have hope that someday I’ll feel safe enough to bring my kids into a crowded place like the fair, so that we can enjoy the wholesome, down-home goodness that only the Nevada County Fair can provide.
I just hope we make it there in one piece.