Thursday, July 15, 2010

Smashin' and crashin' at the Oakland County Fair

Check out the Bump and Run, 4 p.m., Sunday (courtesy of the Oakland County Fair).

So, vacation was nice, but it's time to get back to business — and that business is destruction.

At the end of last week, I got a phone call from Jackie Scramlin, director of the Oakland County Fair. She wanted to know if I would come out and help take tickets for the demolition derby. I can't remember the last time I went to a fair — I certainly couldn't drive myself at the time. And I've never been to a derby of any kind, so I'm not really sure what to expect. Taking perfectly good cars and smashing them up doesn't really appeal to me, though I am interested in people watching.

Fairs in general, however, hold a dear place in my heart. Growing up in a small Northern Michigan town, I couldn't wait for August when the fair hit our neck of the woods. We didn't have sports arenas, big concerts or malls — yeah, we were in the sticks.

Now, the big event conjures up images of screechingly fast rides that send my head and stomach shuddering, homemade pies made by grandmothers, and barns full of blue-ribbon bedecked animals. But one day will forever remain vivid.

My grandparents, whose typical adventure was to take me from yard sale to yard sale, offered to take a friend and me to the fair for the day. Instead of looking at dusty lamps, this was a grand opportunity for fast rides and deep fried dough!

When we arrived at the grounds, my grandparents patiently walked alongside of us as we waited in lines for the bumper cars and Ferris wheel. We tried just about every twirling and spinning attraction that we were tall enough to ride on. And when heat waves started rising from the ground, we knew it was time for lunch. Instead of getting something from a vendor, or hitting up a church-run buffet though, my grandfather headed over to the cattle auction.

The plan was covert, resembling a CIA op Northern Michigan style. My grandparents were going to pretend to look seriously at cattle as bidders, but never actually be the highest bidder. Why you might ask? The answer was simple — the auction offered a bevy of barbecue food for interested buyers. I eyed a large vat of cold, sloppy coleslaw that sat on a picnic table among the other foods. I wanted to die.

Luckily, my grandmother who did not want a life of crime, pleaded with my grandfather.

"Bob, what if we get caught?" she asked.

After a bit more arguing, my grandfather looked at us and figured we'd rat him out.

"Alright, alright," my grandfather conceded.

Instead, it was decided that we would go to McDonalds. This too, was rare in my family, who considered salad a suitable snack.

As we approached the drive-thru, I thought of Big Macs and chocolate shakes. But my plans were soon thwarted. Instead, my grandfather bought thirteen, thirty-nine cent hamburgers.

"They're real small," my grandma assured me.

Mortified, my friend and I hit the floor of the back seat and giggled. After the voice from the speaker repeated back the large order, we were soon handed our meaty meal. Looking back, it was a great day, regardless of my grandparent's unique tactics to save a bit of money.

I can't help but get a bit giddy for tonight. Will I feel nostalgic? Will I get to ride on a Ferris wheel with my husband while we nosh on an Elephant ear? One thing is for certain: I will not eat at a cattle auction and I will not be hitting up any fast food joints.

For more information on the Oakland County Fair, visit

1 comment: