Every year I get this feeling. The knots in my stomach are pulled tighter every time I pass through the narrow rock arch labeled with an aged sign reading, Welcome to the Delta County Fair Grounds. My eyes peer into the distance, and like every year, the park is full of commotion and energy. Kids swinging on the swings, teenagers showing off their new school clothes while sitting on the chipped green tables eating mazzo dogs, and the various types of food stands, complete the atmosphere of the Delta County Fair. The fair is a place where parents enjoy themselves by spending quality time with their families; it’s an ending to the summer and a beginning to a new school year. Entering such grounds would usually make a person feel serenity and excitement, but it is a whole different story when I drive under the rock arch entryway.
It had been an extremely long and tiresome week at the fair, and it was written all over my face that I did not want to be there. Since Monday, a whole weeks worth of pay had gone towards gas, supplies for my pig and clothes to wear for the show. Today was different than any other day of fair; it was busy day of the livestock sale.
As I opened my car door to make my way to the livestock barn, my nostrils filled with the mixed smells of hamburgers, funnel cakes, cheese fries, trash and manure. I always forget how the fair grounds had that unique smell on hot, windy days. The annoying sounds of hungry sheep and pigs echoed in my ears as I came closer to my destination. When finally reaching the old rustic barn, I began to make my way down the long cement alleyway, hoping that I would escape all of the chaos and end up at pen number thirty-five. This is where I would find my chubby pink pig lazily sleeping. My feet dragged, as the agonizing thought ran in my mind that I was once again going to have to go back into the show ring. Every time I set foot into the open arena something always ends up going wrong, and the huge crowd is always there to witness the event.
“The sale will begin shortly, starting off with the hogs,” a scratchy voice echoed through the speakers into the barn.
The atmosphere of the pig barn had a dramatic change from being calm to frantic and hostile. My walking pace quickly sped up as I darted away from the traffic of filthy pigs with their owners trying to guide them into the wash racks to be cleaned. The sweat dripped off my forehead as I finally reached my pig pen.
“All kids who are planning on selling their hog, please be waiting at your pen for Suzie to come and get you,” played from the speakers.
I knew by the neon green three painted on the back of my pig that I was going to be one of the first kids to set foot in the sales barn. As I tensely waited on the white metal bar of my pen, the misters above my head gently drizzled small water droplets over my skin, calming down my nerves. My eyes nervously check out the long row of pens beside me. The majority of the pens were filled with kids dressed in nice blue jeans and western shirts, in hopes of impressing the buyers. Other pens had supportive parents leaning over the pens giving their little kids advice as what to do once they get into the sale barn.
My thoughts were interrupted by the deep voice of a lady carrying a clipboard shouting in the barn, “Pigs one through five start heading down to the sales barn, the sale is about to begin.”
I grabbed my baby blue show stick, and forced my chubby pig into the skinny alley way. It felt like I had just pulled onto a busy highway full of crazy pigs in complete disorder. I finally guided my stubborn pig into moving in the right direction.
My stomach jolted at the sight of the sales barn. The arena had been completely changed around from last year. It was no longer a small personal arena full of neatly raked sand; instead, it had been distorted into an extremely large intimidating pen. The dinky fence had been completely surrounded by fully packed stands, full of anxious buyers with pockets full of money. The aroma of cheese fries, cow manure, pickles and sweaty people made my toes curl in my tightly laced boots. The two men, with matching cowboy hats, inside the arena had their knees bent and were ready to except any bid that was thrown their way. As I sat there waiting for my queue to enter the arena, my brain started to swell as the thought aroused in my mind that all focus was going to be on me and my pig.
“Your up,” the sincerely petite woman said as she lightly tapped on the behind of my pig.
I blindly followed my pig into the ring.
“Now entering the arena is Kayla Zimmerman and her 255 pound hog,” the announcer muffled into the microphone. He continued with an unexpected remark, “Wow! You have surely grown up since the last time I saw you.”
My cheeks quickly turned into a cherry red color, as the smothering crowd started to hoot and snort in amusement. These noises consequently excited my pig and he started to madly run around the arena, flipping clots of dirt into the crowd. At that point, I had forgotten why I was even there.
“Lets get this show on the road,” announced the giggly voice of the auctioneer. “Hundred dollars…..do I hear a hundred.”
“HEY……..HEY……HO……HOY,” the ring men screamed out to the auctioneers, as they lifted their rolled up programs high in the air at the sound of a bid.
My shaky, clammy hands clenched onto my show stick as I continuously walked around in circles behind my pig.
“Four fifty…..give me fifty,” the auctioneer continued. My humiliated emotions turned into frustration. Why weren’t people bidding? As I continued walking around in circles, my eyes darted from bleacher to bleacher in a plea for more bids to come my way. The sight of my friends all dressed in halter tops, shorts, and flip flops made me wish that I was sitting with them making faces at people; but I was stuck in my filthy western jeans, cowboy boots with five inches of pig manure stuck to the bottom of them and a long sleeve shirt soaked in sweat. Why do I do this?
“HEY…HEY…,” the ring men screamed. Finally, the bids started to role in.
“Sold at six hundred and fifty dollars to Bollinger and Queen,” the auctioneer sternly announced.
I quickly glanced at my buyer with a grateful look, before I took off in a dead sprint trying to catch up with my pig. After jogging back and forth down the busy alleyways, taking out other kids, my pig and I finally made our way into the small pen. I collapsed into the soft, smelly sawdust next to my exhausted pig, as the cool misters cooled the surrounding air.
The exhausted and relieved looks plastered on the kids faces made me realize that the fair was finally over. As I looked around, kids were giving their pigs the last bite of food and drink of water that they will ever taste. The well dressed kids were transformed into regular farm kids with old t-shirts and jeans. There was a sense of contentment throughout the barn among the swine and their owners. As I clenched onto my crisp six hundred and fifty dollar check I realized that I hadn’t been able to wear my new school clothes to fair, hang out with my friends, or truly enjoy fair, but I guess it’s just the fair’s fare.