Share Your Fair Memories…Saturday at 7:30am on WBCK
The Calhoun County Fair starting Sunday the 14th....a week from this Sunday. Join Jacob Washburn and Nico Berrios on Saturday at 7:30am on WBCK for "It's About You", and call in at 441-9595.
When I was growing up in the 60’s, the County Fair was just about the biggest thing all year…..well, until Christmas, I guess. This was really before the big parks like Cedar Point were built. There were a few smaller ones, like Silver Beach over on Lake Michigan. We loved to head over to Deer Forest in Coloma for the day. But the County Fair was it! And we’d have very important discussions with the neighbor kids about which fair was best. Growing up north of Kalamazoo, our main fairs were The Allegan County Fair, and the Kalamazoo County Fair. One thing we kids could always agree on: The Allegan Fair was WAAAY better than the Kalamazoo. One kid would remark, “I heard a kid got stabbed there. And those carnies are really nasty! (I can't remember whether we considered those things bad or good.) And then some kid would pipe up….”My grandpa always takes us to the Centerville Fair. It’s the best fair around.” “What about the Ionia Free Fair”, another would say. “I hear that fair over in Marshall is pretty good too.” We knew they all happened on different weeks, mostly, so we hoped we’d be able to go to ‘em all! (Even the Kalamazoo Fair).
So what was the big attraction? Well, the rides mostly. Allegan had a lot of space, so maybe they could fit more rides. Don’t sit next to a big kid on the Tilta-Whirl, or you’ll get crushed. Don’t have any change in your pockets when you ride the loop o planes…..it’ll all fall out and those Carnies will clean up at the end of the night. They run the thing to try and make the change fall out! The Scrambler was my favorite. Ferris Wheel? Not so much. Too darn high, and they always stop the thing at the top for about an hour. I had to wait years to ride the Bump-‘em cars, because you had to be this tall. Not fair at all!
The food was great……the freak shows…..well not my favorite but you had to check out some of it because everybody would be talking about the fair for the next month. You had to know what you were talking about. This was the fair!
The things I remember the most though were those grand stand shows. Maybe it’s because I was at an impressionable young age, or maybe because fairs were bigger back then and able to attract top talent. We jammed our butts into the grandstand at the Allegan County Fair to see King of the Road singer Roger Miller, right in his hey-day. We saw the Joey Chitwood stunt driving team, and of course, the demolition derby. I still remember every detail of one, where an old tank of a green ’54 DeSoto ran out of gas, giving the win to the most bashed up Ford Falcon you’ve ever seen!
And of course, the fair is a celebration of the efforts of independent Americans, who grow their own food, raise livestock, and showcase great recipies!
I remember back in ’88, when I did news for the radio station in Marshall. The owner, C. Wayne Wright, told the staff that they’d be covering the Calhoun County Livestock auction…..all of it. So one of the DJs hauled a transmitter up to the Fairgrounds and hung a microphone over a gate inside the barn where they did the livestock auction, and anybody who tuned into WELL-FM 104.9 that day, from 8am to 6pm, heard (Auction SFX), followed by Cow….etc. The DJ never said a word all day. I think he just put his feet up and took a long nap.
What do you remember about the fair?