The county fair midway: (not) a taste of heaven

County Fair(is) Wheel (Photo: CKirgiss)
County Fair(is) Wheel (Photo: CKirgiss)

It’s that time of year again –  when tractors, hogs, rabbits, goats, funnel cakes, cotton candy, and homemade jellies all come together to form a week-long holy union .

For kids, nothing is quite as magical as the county fair. All those animals. All those rides. All those prizes. All that food.

For parents, nothing is quite as trying as the county fair. All those animals. All those rides. All those prizes. All that food.

With its bright lights and thrills and feasting and celebrating, the county fair’s midway presents itself as a paradise of sorts, perhaps even a tiny taste of heaven. So much joy. So much excitement. So much fun. So much love.


Last night, while weaving through midway crowds, my husband said, “It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?”

Yes. It is kind of sad. Besides the fact that the midway doesn’t at all resemble even the tiniest taste of heaven – you must buy your way onto rides, you must earn your place, the last in line are in fact the last in line, the gatekeepers are sour grumps – there is this:

The midway is not a place where tears and mourning are no more. The disappointment of not winning, of not having enough tickets, of not getting yet another mountain of cotton candy hangs heavy in the air.

The midway is not a place of safe belonging. The fear of losing one’s children in the crowd reflects in the crazed eyes of parents. The distinct separation of certain small groups is evident in their stance.

The midway is not a place of contented rest. (For that I’d recommend the 4-H barns – specifically the rabbits). The frenetic collision of blinking lights, bawling babies, and barking ride operators is really just a dolled-up version of common stress.

The midway is not real and true. On the back side of all the lights and music and magic and facades is a row of weary looking trailers and bleak storage bins ready to contain the various pieces of a dismantled paradise.

The midway’s not a bad place. Some people appeared to be enjoying themselves. Momentarily. I think.

But the midway is surely a feeble attempt at the best life has to offer, both in the here and in the hereafter.

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