The Cullman County Fair started the year that I was born. At the time, people were getting back a sense of normalcy after the end of WWll and the housing boom had hit Cullman. The average cost of a house in the U.S. was $10,250 and the cost of a gallon of gas was 22 cents. A new car would set you back about $1,700 bucks, and you could see a movie for around 50-70 cents.
Taking a date to the Cullman County Fair might set a young man back about five dollars, that is if he really splurged to impress her!
Even back then, the fair was something special.
If you had kids, it was the highlight of the year, right up there with Christmas. The fair meant games, prizes, rides and food that you never, ever got at home, like big pink swirls of cotton candy, sticky red candied apples and the enticing aroma of roasted peanuts. Those familiar smells hit you all the way out at the gate, making your mouth water before you even saw the first carnival booth.
And the rides, man, you could ride on the ferris wheel and see all over the fairgrounds and out to Highway 31. You always felt a little scared being up that high, come on, admit it. But you couldn’t let your friends know it, or you’d be teased mercilessly the next day at school.
And pity the poor one in the crowd who would upchuck after riding the roller coaster or the Tilt-A-Whirl (and you can bet that there was always one, every year). It would take a whole school year to get over the ribbing a guy or girl would take from classmates.
The Cullman County Fair has grown with the city and county. It is now 10 days of fun for the whole family, and people come from surrounding counties, as well, to see the sights and inspect the demonstration booths, the livestock and of course the fair queen contestants. Everyone is always curious to see who will be this year’s kitchen queen, who wins the most blue ribbons and who has the prettiest or the most interesting booth.
As the years have gone by, the Cullman County Fair has become one of the most anticipated events in a county where there are numerous well-attended, family-oriented events. Oddly, the September fair doesn’t have an adverse effect on the upcoming Oktoberfest, if anything, it helps to advertise the annual German festival, reminding people that they will soon have another reason to gather here in this welcoming city.
Fairs, like many such attractions, have suffered over the past few years because of the economy, but the Cullman County Fair seems to have stood the test of time, and instead of folding the way others have had to do, it has prospered and continues to provide the citizens of the county and surrounding areas with quality entertainment and local produce, livestock and culinary expertise, not to mention offering scholarships to young girls who take the stage each year in hopes of attaining money for college.
If you think that all kids do nowadays for fun is to stay tethered to a cell phone or an iPad, all you have to do is check out the faces of the youngsters at the fair. The sights, the sounds, the smells of the fair are something you can’t get from a computer.
This year, when you are walking between the booths and the rides, stop and just look around you. Many things have changed, but the real heart of the fair is still the same. There are still little ones asleep on their dads’ shoulders, others pulling on their mom’s hands, begging for just one more ride on the Merry-Go-Round, and others who want just one more bag of popcorn and one more hot dog for the road, and smiling teenagers, holding hands and making eyes at one another, and tired but happy parents who have spent more than they intended, but what can you say? The fair only comes to town once a year!
All this stuff still makes the same statement – that there are things that people never forget, that they want to have their own kids experience, the good things, the things that make the best memories.
Take some time to see this year’s fair; it’s gonna be better than ever!
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