Fair is an island of distraction

Published 5:54 am Friday, October 21, 2016

Well, it is fair time.

Most readers of the paper know what this means, though to me the Washington Parish Free Fair experience is new. I’ve been to plenty of fairs in the past — I like the animal barn, the roasted corn and all the rest — but until Tuesday night I’d never seen such a passionate display of affection for a fair.

I got to the fairgrounds in time to see the opening ceremony and then enjoyed the Russell Walker Band, but the real draw that evening was the fair queen pageant. Pageantry aside, the contestants’ dedication to the facts and the history of fair were impressive. Each of the 12 candidates had to answer a random, unique question that pertained to some aspect of the fair, be it a suggested new attraction or favorite honoree or a favorite part of the fair. More than once a contestant praised the Washington Parish Free Fair’s picnic spirit.

Most fairs are reflections of their community. Most have carnivals, 4-H displays, food, folk art and the rest but I can’t recall any that are so explicitly rooted in local history. From the Mile Branch settlement to the pageant questions, it’s obvious that one of the more unique aspects of this fair is its fealty to the place, the people and the past. Such fealty ensures a healthy respect for the past, but it also helps guarantee that the fair will continue for decades to come, as each subsequent generation of adults attempts to reconstruct what they remember being dear to the community. Such displays hold communities together and they give distinct flavor to communities. They’re also helpful for outsiders, like myself, to get some understanding of a place.

Best of all, displays like what I’ve seen offer the best hope yet that everything is OK. We’ve all seen the national political news. Heck, on Wednesday we had another debate and today, Thursday, there’s renewed outrage.

But not so much, down in Franklinton.

I am sure it’s not that national politics don’t matter — I’ve seen far too many political events locally to know they do — but walking around the fair on Tuesday, it was clear that whatever divisions we have, the smell of boiling fat, cotton candy, roasting meat and the sight of would-be fair queens and the sound of country music brings us together.

There is a time for disagreement and debate. There is a time for anger and there is a place for protest. But I am happy to see there’s also a place where none of that happens. During one of our loudest political seasons, I am happy there’s an island of quiet down there in Franklinton. And, considering how important the fair tradition is here, there is good reason to believe the island will live on, each October, no matter what happens this November, next November or any November for as long as we count them.

The food’s great, the lemonade is tangy and the music is hot.

See you at the free fair.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can email him at jesse.wright@bogalusadailynews.com or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.