The first hint of fall in the air always reminds me of the county fair, held annually for 77 years at the American Legion fairgrounds in Canton. Just like leaves falling and school starting, our county fair marks the changing of the season.
When I was in high school at Cherokee High in the 1960s, school let out early on Wednesday the week the fair was in town so everyone could attend. The school buses even made a stop at the fairgrounds and gave the students a few hours to roam the funhouse, ride the Ferris wheel and eat a little cotton candy before loading up and continuing their routes.
While there were a lot of bigger fairs in the area, including the ones in Marietta and Cumming, ours was fun to us because it was where you could wander up and down each aisle of booths, walk through the barns of exhibits and see folks you knew and even some that you didn't, which in itself was a novelty in our small town.
The 4-H clubs were involved, as were the Future Farmers of America and lots of other school organizations, as the awarding of prizes for the livestock was big business. Those who had raised a prize cow or other animal had a stamp of achievement that could translate into selling the animal or its offspring for a bigger profit.
Most of all, it was I think a mark of pride for those who participated.
When I was a tween, my mother, the garden club member, entered flowers she had grown and arrangements she made. Mother loved flowers and had a talent for displaying them beautifully.
I was an awkward pre-teen in those days and didn't think I was very good at anything. But they were desperate for entrants in the junior division for the flower show portion of the fair. My mother laid down the law with a raise of her eyebrow and a nod of her head. I was to make an arrangement.
Obviously, desperation was involved.
I don't remember much about my modest offering stuck together from flowers we grew in our yard. They probably looked more like weeds. But I did win some sort of ribbon, and I was delighted. I always liked to win.
One of my earliest forays to the county fair was when I was about 3 years old, and my parents took me to ride the merry go round and play the games. I picked up a duck that floated by in the water, a yellow duck. It had a number on the bottom.
The man looked at the number and tried to hand me a little paper fan. I started crying because I wanted the duck.
My father caved and bought the duck. I was always a daddy's girl.
By high school, my boyfriend, who happens to be my current, and only, husband, would take me to the fair as a date. We would go at night when things seemed a little edgier and wilder.
The rides seemed to go faster, the noise level was greater, and the lights seemed bright and glittery. Remember, not much happened in Canton.
The American Legion gentlemen have always been a part of the fair, there to make sure that everyone has a good time and that money is raised for a good cause.
But more than that, the fair is a long-standing tradition of small-town life, when the carnival workers move from town to town each autumn, when the livestock and vegetables are on display and when a little break from reality relives the monotony of day-to-day life.
Rebecca Johnston is former editor of The Cherokee Tribune.