JULY 10 HOME STRETCH COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
It’s hard to believe, but next week when I follow my schedule of covering the dog, dairy and swine shows, the harness racing and auto racing, and take assorted other photos, it will mark my 15th time covering the Great Jones County Fair.
The Fair means different things to different people. There are lots of memories, not all of them good. I thought I would share a few that stick in my mind from my decade-and-a-half of experience:
• In my early years here, I dreaded the Fair. Much of that had to do with one night during my first fair.
I was covering the tractor pull, which had been delayed a couple of times by rain. I stood for hours doing absolutely nothing, because I had to stay until the trip drawing was conducted, so I could take a photo of the winner. The tradition had been to do the drawing at the end of the program, but on this night, mercifully, they paused the program to do the drawing, somewhere close to midnight.
• The first year I attended the harness races, in 1999, a strange thing happened. After a race, a driver fell off his buggy and the horse got away, and went galloping around the track. It circled the oval four times, and by this time was exhausted. I was standing in the box seat area in the row closest to the track, and the horse was heading right for me.
I had read somewhere that you could sometimes stop a horse by raising your hand in a “halt!” position, and so I tried it. I’ll never know if that’s what did it, but the horse staggered to a stop, and an owner was able to grab the reins.
• I still say the Chicago concert in 2007 was the best one I’ve seen in my years of going to the Fair. I’m sure it’s because it was one of the most popular bands of my era, and I knew all of its big hits and loved most of them. But I had a blast singing and jumping around to the brassy sounds of that great ’70s band. I know I’ve missed a lot of shows (I still have regrets about missing Heart last year), and some of those might have been better. But of the ones I’ve seen, that one was tops.
• In recent years, events surrounding the Fair have provided as much fun as events of the Fair itself (if not more). One of the most memorable times was three years ago. A major storm had hit, and we found ourselves in a garage full of people, some friends, some strangers. There were a lot of laughs as we waited for the storm to blow over.
• I’ll never forget the feeling of going over to the fairgrounds during the flood of 2010. It was surreal, watching kids happily riding the rides at the top of the hill while, in the background, water covered the entire track and golf course.
No matter what you enjoy about the Fair, something interesting always happens. Let’s hope this year’s events are “good interesting.”