Simcoe Fair or as it is known now Norfolk County Fair is 178 years young now. Kids Day is now called Young Canada Day and a bit more supervised than it was in my youth. In the 60s and 70s the Monday before the Fair opened every school handed out a kid’s pass for free admission to the Fair. Mothers were on the phone to plan who would drive there, who would pick up and what times as we kids tried to push the time we could stay at the Fair. The older you were the longer you could stay. We saved our allowance for weeks ahead in order to have extra money with us. Moms and Dads usually gave a bit more in order to cover rides better. Sometimes you got money with instructions to buy Salt Water Taffy or Fudge or some other treat for the parents.
When you were very young mothers came with you and took you to the little kids rides but once you were past grade one well, that was a whole new adventure. Your friends got together and away you all went. Moms dropped you at the Fair gate and the instructions were – stick with your friends, do not wander away from each other, we will pick you up at 4 right here at the gate. Away we went with the Fair ahead of us. Through the gates hundreds and hundreds of groups of children went in. The only ones who had a grown up with them were what we thought of as the babies. Rides, games and all the buildings were open to us. No grown up really came to Kids Day because it was not for them really. This was our kingdom on this day. First was to go to the rides and of course since we were now parent-free we could also go on the big rides. Having friends meant we were always challenging each other to go on the really scary rides. Teasing each other that we saw you with your eyes closed. To be honest – mine were closed most of the times. Rides were much, much longer than they are now and by token, each token was just ten cents although there were a few rides that were the biggest rides that would be two tokens but never more than that and they went longer.
A two token was the Salt & Pepper which, of course, turned you upside down and backwards too. I never saw anything because once I was fastened in and the shaker started to move I closed my eyes and prayed that it wouldn’t go on forever. We all dared each other to go on it together. It didn’t seem so bad with friends. Once we needed a break from the rides we started checking out the food. After all we were without any grown-up and therefore we could eat whatever we liked and we sure did. We tried games of chance and walked until we just had to go on a ride where we could sit. The Haunted House was a favourite after all Halloween was coming too. Kids rarely checked out the buildings except those we knew gave away free stuff. We didn’t really care what the stuff was but it was free and they were giving it to us, like we were important. I suppose they knew our parents would get it one way or another so it was worth a shot. We watched the One-Man Band and Trapees Artists and so many wonderful acts just happening everywhere. One building had our artwork if our teacher submitted it. You could win a ribbon so that was a building we just might check out to see.
The kids who lived on farms had their special shows with their horses, pets or any creature that was special to them. 4-H Club was there in full force. This was a group that unless you were part of you were ignored but that was okay, the show areas were places to sit if your feet needed a break.
One of us was in charge of keeping an eye on the time and when it grew close to meeting our Mom then we tore through the Fair from whatever end we were at, stop at the booth with the food they wanted, use that money that was set aside to buy it and head to the gate. We all talked a mile a minute trying to tell the Mom driving everything that we saw and did. The goal of this talk was to try to convince them that they had to bring us back some evening, although the trade off with that was that we would probably have to visit the buildings with them.
Next day at school every class had to do something about their time at the Fair. Writing stories or reviews, art or whatever a teacher could think of. They did have a plan for any child that didn’t make it to the Fair but as I remember nobody in our class ever needed the other plan, every single kid went to the Fair.
Now as a Senior I don’t go to the Fair on Kids Day or Young Canada Day, I go on Senior’s Day but whenever possible I try never to miss Norfolk County Fair. If you want to see more pictures and fun at the fair, below are their Facebook page and their Fair Page and if you find yourself in Norfolk County the week before Thanksgiving – come to our Fair!