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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



I sat in the dark watching quietly as they walked like zombies towards me, the young and old and every age in between. Some were weeping quietly, their heads resting on the shoulders of loved ones, while others held no shame in their tantrums, screaming loudly while kicking and stamping their feet. It wasn’t a scary occasion by any means nor did it elicit large amounts of sadness, but just as though the season change it was inevitable that this time would come.

Suddenly the sky above us opened up and explosions of every shape and color filled the sky leaving a trail of acidic smoke that drifted silently across the tops of the vehicles parked in the grass. With one final loud bang as soon as one realized how much you were enjoying them, the fireworks ended and an eerie calm began to set in as the tired stumbled from the gates.

Earlier in the day a mild cool breeze had blown in and left people searching for another layer of clothing to wear and as I enjoyed my daily ritual of watching the world around me wake up, the crowds began to form. I had found a comfortable spot on a bench and was joined by a couple of ladies from Sioux City who kept discussing the latest miracle product they had found under the grandstand. After they left a couple from Arizona asked if they could share my bench and I assented with that typical Iowa nod, as if to say “If you must, it isn’t as if anyone else is sitting there.”

They soon engaged me in conversation about the day and the sights to be seen and misinterpreted my Iowa FFA Alumni Board of Directors badge for that of a Fair Board member and gushed openly about how wonderful everything was they saw that day. Of course my reply was tempered with that Iowa openness as if I was reminding them that it wasn’t any secret at all that the Fair was indeed one of the wonders of the world.

It has been years since I was at the Fair on the very last day and stayed until they shut the grounds and ended the Fair at midnight. I watched as the crowd walked out from the grandstand show full of smiles and a few last minute corn dogs and the occasional pork chop on a stick. I enjoyed watching the kids most of all, especially the ones who were slowly starting to realize that school started in less than twelve hours. It was as though their entire summer imploded with the last of the fireworks.

Slowly one by one the free stage shows ended and a few campers who were trying to beat the Monday after rush began pulling out of the lots, mixing themselves in with pickup trucks and livestock trailers of every make and size. At the gates, those friendly ticket takers who just hours before welcomed you in with a smile, suddenly turned into a dog that had been teased one to many times, reminding everyone that there was no reentry to the grounds after 9 p.m.

As I sat there I began to see the lights of the food venders click off one by one as they cleaned up for the last time and locked their booths up tight. The paddlewheel of the Ye Olde Mill came to a creaking stop as the small waves of water pounded rhythmically against the wooden wheel. The sky glider, hours before carrying people up and down the hill hung limp, its chairs standing silent and lonely as one by one the lights from the midway began to be doused, the double Ferris wheel being the last to snuff itself.

The Fair, which lived and breathed in a glorious mix of fried foods and sawdust, now sat silent and glowed as though a fog had settled over it. We had reached the end of the run, the end of the enjoyment and in most minds, the end of summer. Eventually I too got in the car and pulled out of the lot for the last time, nodding politely to the peace officer directing traffic as if to say, “Thank you and I’ll see you next year.” Unfortunately I grossly underestimated the length of time a bag of Jr. Doughnuts and four salted nut rolls would last, so the Fair can’t come back soon enough for me. In the meantime I’ll do my best to make it through Iowa’s other seasons until it rolls back again. See you next week. Remember, we’re all in this together.