Illustration by James Callahan
I thought we were going out," Tad says, standing by the door with his keys in his hand.
"Just a minute," I reply, tapping away on my keyboard. "I'm talking to somebody on Facebook."
"Who are you talking to?"
"I am talking to the Seventy-Five Cent Sweet Tea from the fair! The Tea says it can't wait to see me."
"You're an idiot," Tad says, throwing up his hands and walking out without me. It's OK, though, because he knew that I was an idiot about this particular topic when he met me.
Tad and I started dating in August of 1999, which means that I was in the throes of State Fair Anticipation for the first seven weeks that he knew me. We went to the fair together that year. He humored me even then, and I, in turn, forgave him for heckling the inside talker at the sideshow, which is somewhat akin to blasphemy in my world. It was a good fair. The world's smallest horse and the world's smallest cowboy were both there that year. It was the fair's way of telling me that I had met my perfect match.
Since we added The Boy to our fair-going posse, it's gotten even more exciting. Sometimes a little too exciting — he is no stranger to the "State Fair Time Out," which can be on a bench, a hay bale or even a conveniently located ride trailer. Usually, though, we enjoy ourselves. Because we are at the fair! Who doesn't have a good time at the fair?
Followers of my blog may recall that, in 2010, I was voted the State Fair of Virginia's Biggest Fan. For the sake of clarity, I should mention that it was an online contest that required you to pester your friends into voting for you, and since I am a huge Internet nerd, I had an advantage. But don't think that stopped me from telling every carny, vendor and farmer I met that week that I was officially their biggest fan, proclaimed so by the authority of the fair itself. That was a heady year.
Last year's fair was The Boy's first experience with the sideshow. We'd been without a real, ten-in-one sideshow at the fair since the year Tad heckled the talker. No, the heckling wasn't what did it; the head guy retired due to health issues. Sideshows don't usually offer the best health-care plans. In 2011, we were introduced to the World of Wonders sideshow, and a world of wonders it was. The Boy immediately adapted his career plans to include running the tentatively titled "Show of Amazement."
Little did we know, as we were blithely munching our funnel cakes and gazing upon huge pumpkins, that our Shangri-La was in trouble. In December 2011, the owners announced that they were filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
I was horrified and stunned for a day. Then I firmly declared my allegiance to the financial optimists who were stating that the filing was just a way to reorganize assets and get out from under bad debt.
The fair had until March 7 to pull out of its financial tailspin. That day, I parked myself in front of my monitor, and I waited for the news. When it came, it wasn't good. The Chapter 11 had become Chapter 7: liquidation.
People started posting condolences on my Facebook page. Some of them, from people who really knew me, were sincere. Some of them were glib, like it was all a funny joke. Those people I wanted to punch in the throat.
"I know it's selfish to be so upset about it when people have real problems," I wailed to Tad after hearing the news, "but it was my favorite place in the whole wide world!"
Again, he humored me. Because he knew how much it meant to me, and to The Boy. We were in mourning.
On May 22, Motley's Auction House put the State Fair of Virginia on the block. An angel arrived in the form of Mark Lovell, who drove 1,000 miles from Memphis on his Harley to purchase the State Fair and all its property for $5.67 million dollars. Lovell vowed that the fair would go on.
I sent Lovell a friend request on Facebook. He hasn't friended me back yet, but make no mistake about it, he is my friend. See you at the fair.