We’ll get to the Boot Camp soon, but here’s a little aside I thought you’d enjoy JJ
One of the most amazing, bizarre and unusual events of the year occurred recently in good old Simcoe, Ontario. This day is a throw-back to another time when rural communities took a “time-out” to celebrate the harvest season. This event is so old-school and redneck that I’m proud to say I took part in it.
What is this auspicious event called?
None other than:
Fair Day is an annual celebration in Norfolk County when all school children get the day off school to attend the fair. Yes, you heard me right; going to the Fair is a school holiday not unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Teachers are required to report to the Fair and wander about spending their regular school hours visiting with students and parents alike. They must sign their ticket and report in upon entering the fair grounds, proving that they haven’t skipped out for a quick round of golf. Truant teachers are raked upon the coals if they have no legitimate excuse.
The biggest event of the day is the High School competition which is held in the rather substantive grandstand area. (The fair is the fifth largest in Ontario) Each of five high schools decorates their section of the seating area and 90% of students attend. That’s about 5000 screaming (some inebriated, some stoned) teenagers. The noise is incredible and the pandemonium phenomenal.
My son’s school theme was – now get this – “Jailbirds”. Most of the kids were dressed in black and white striped clothing. They marched from the High School, 1200 strong, with a police escort, sirens blaring, lights flashing and all.
These schools compete for the coveted NORFOLK FAIR COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL TROPHY and the prestige of being the Number One school in the county.
All of the football teams wear their jerseys, the cheer teams are dressed in cheer regalia, faces are painted and huge special effects and signage is displayed. School colors and logos are displayed everywhere.
The competition is fierce. There is a male and a female tug-of-war competition, where the biggest and baddest kids you’ve ever seen struggle to reef their competitors over the “Tug Line”. There is a road race for both boys and girls involving two brutal laps around the ½ mile horse racing oval. The biggest event, of course, is reserved for the Cheer Teams. These kids begin practice the first day of the semester (some work all summer) in preparation for the County Championship. The roar from the grandstand during all of this can be heard 10 blocks away.
I would have to say there are close to 10 000 people (students, teachers, parents, community) attending this event.
Once the competition ends around noon, these 5000 or so teenagers invade the midway like a giant human Tsunami. I know my 15 year old arrived at the fair around 8:30 am and I won’t be picking him up until 10 pm. Fair Day is that big in our community.
Now, what about those elementary school kids? What’s in it for them?
Well, first of all, 20% of the high school audience is made up of the little kids who come to watch their siblings. Others wander about the fair in groups or with parents. The Fair is progressive yet much of it retains its old school roots. There are animal displays and farming demonstrations every where. Commercial buildings are filled to the rafters with transient merchants hawking the next big thing. Knock off clothing can be purchased for next to nothing. You get the picture.
Youth competitions are abundant, from those for arts and crafts, baking and sewing to the more traditional 4H animal competitions. The original purpose of Fair Day was to release the kids from school on the first day of the Fair so that they could go to see what ribbons they earned in the competitions.
When my own kids were younger they’d get a competition brochure the first week of school. The next month would be spent preparing 20 or 30 entries. With the prizes ranging from 25 cents to $5.00, my kids could rack up better than $20 in prize money every year. We still have a box full of ribbons accumulated from the three of them. We were the raining “Mr. Potato Head” Champions for 4 years in succession. (We had some difficulty in the cucumber animal category, however)
The food is wonderful and tempting, from pogo dogs to elephant ears, to poutine and, of course, there are those award winning barbecue pits with pulled pork and ribs.
The midway is shoulder- to-shoulder bad ass bedlam. With rock music blaring, bands of teenagers walk the boulevards in search of the next big thrill. Hoots, howls and primal screaming are at Jet engine level.
I’d have to say that there were over 20 000 people at the fair on Fair Day, and that’s in a town of 20 000. You could say that Simcoe was a lot like Green Bay when the Packers are in town. You could fire a canon down Main Street. And yes, many parents take the day off work so they can accompany their children on Fair Day.
So, as Jeff Foxworthy would likely say:
“If the opening of the local Fall Fair is a school holiday and your momma once anchored her high school tug-of-war team…..