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Let’s take a stroll through the Lanett fair

Last week we went to the Cotton Pickin’ Fair in Gay, Georgia. This week, let’s walk over to the carnival in Lanett and see what’s up.

I’ve always been curious about the little travelling carnivals that dot the South. When I was a child, every fall the carnival came to the empty lot beside Huguley School, right behind Roach’s store and cater-corner from Gump Spears’ store. Think of it as being right behind the Huguley Circle K.

I can still recall the sights and the sounds and the smells, all bundled with the excitement of a carnival coming to a wonderful community that still did not have “city water” and to an area that had, at best, three television channels if you could get your t.v. antenna pointed just right.

We’ve come a long way since then. The Huguley community has retained its cussed independent streak, remaining largely outside of the city limits of both Lanett and Valley. And it is none the worse for it.

Ray Bradbury may have begun my interest in carnivals. I discovered young his classic “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, a book about two thirteen-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and Will Holloway, and their experiences when a train brought the carnival to their Greentown, Illinois, hometown. I think about that book every October.

As I was driving through town the other day, I looked up and noticed that the spring breeze had blown our carnival into town. Without me even knowing it was coming, it had slipped in and quietly set up in the old Lanett mill parking lot.

I couldn’t resist. Saturday night, I took off my coat and tie (okay, I don’t really wear a coat and tie on Saturday night—usually), put on my jeans and Asics, slipped into my baseball cap, and off to the carnival I went.

I parked at the Lanett post office parking lot, and as I came through the El Rio Mexican Restaurant parking lot, a lady in a small red car stopped, rolled down her window, and asked me where the closest ATM was. A disappointed small child was in the back, and I could only assume that they needed cash for the carnival.  I gave her directions.

As I walked toward it, the bright lights, fried food smells, and the peals of laughter carried me along. The carnival had no real entry point, so I wended my way through some barriers and just walked in. The Yo-Yo was swinging small children (and one grown up) around. They seemed happy. A lady with green hair, a long white backless dress that showed some purple underwear, and a man with hair longer than hers, were helping a child ride the Bat Fighter. Nearby, small children rode on oversized plastic ducks, and just past them the Wonder Wheel flung older kids into the air.

The entire carnival was made up of attractions on the left and the right, with a faux alley made by children’s rides in the middle.

It took about 200 steps to go from one end to the other. When I got to the far corner I bought pink and blue cotton candy from a nice older couple as I watched the Avenger ride slide a line of courageous riders up, down, left, right, as they tried to hold on.

It looked like fun. I didn’t ride.

I walked down the other row, past the redolent pony rides, munched on my cotton candy, and left.

I drove back by the carnival this morning as the carnies were packing up the rides and their campers. I came back later in the day only to see the tail lights of the last truck pulling out, the parking lot empty of both children and fun.

The same zephyr that blew them in had picked them up and moved them to the next town and then to the next and on to the next.

But they’ll be back. They always come back.

ADDENDUM: Two weeks ago we spent time with Marge and Dave at the new car wash. Just this week the new car wash put up a sign banning loud or vulgar music. Rumor has it that our local power couple will be meeting their car wash needs elsewhere.

Locals pointed out that when Marge and Dave saw the new sign, they stopped, and they waved.