The fair seemed bigger when I was a kid

By Dwight Collins | Aug 20, 2014

Camden — As a kid growing up on the Midcoast, the start of the Union Fair was a sure sign that summer was coming to an end and school was just around the corner.

I don't remember going to the fair when I was young with my parents, they got divorced before I really had any idea what a true country fair was. The first one I remember going to I was about 10 and all week-long my friends in the neighborhood were going to the fair and coming home with really cool stuff like a Motley Crue T-shirt or a Dukes of Hazard mirror and I wanted to go in the worse way.

My mom scraped some cash together and the final day of the fair we went. I don't remember specifics, what I remember was my mother made sure I got to go to the fair.

Over the next four summers I spent my time at Mic Mac Campground with some friends of my mothers and was able go to the fair to many, many times. Back then it seemed so big and everyone around me was like a giant. The rides were bigger, faster and, it seems today, a whole lot louder.

That summer was amazing for a 10-year-old, I wasn't quite old enough to strike out on my own, but plenty old enough to tag along with some of the teenagers from the campground. Of course, I'd be given money to go and withing the first hour it was all gone, but I didn't care – I was at the fair.

Each year the transition was slowly made from a kid to mouthy teenager and the focus of going to fair changed as well. I wasn't there for the T-shirts, rides or the awesome mirrors – I was there for the girls.

I have many good memories from the fair and some not so good ones as well.

I remember having spent all my money and I still had hours to go. I was walking toward the grandstand and I hear a voice from behind me say, “excuse me, son, I think you dropped this” and it was my grandfather holding a $20 bill. My grandmother still talks about that particular trip because they brought along this girl who, until years later, I couldn't stand, and I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual.

“All you guys did was bicker and fight,” Gram says. “I don't know what ever possessed us to take you two in the first place.”

One year the Rick Charrett Band was playing and the drummer threw out a drum stick and about 20 people piled over the top of me to get it. I was standing on the infield fence and got knocked down and caught my leg in between the rail and the support and completely tore up my knee. After returning to the campground from the emergency room, a friend from the site next door who I was at the fair with came over and gave me the drum stick ... I still have it.

Once I got my driver's license and had some freedom, going to the fair took on a whole new meaning. It was no longer about the dough boys, french fries and rides, it was about being young and numb. I remember going to the fair in anticipation of making fun of drunk people and catching a fight or two. One time, I was walking with my dad and some drunk guy came up and tried to steal his wallet -- no fight but it got wicked tense for a bit.

The major issue is that when you're a teenager, going to the fair means that you are almost certain to run in to someone from another school who did not like you just because you were from a rival school.

The summer between my junior and senior year I was at the fair with one of my wrestling teammates and he had a beef with another wrestler from a neighboring school.

We were walking into the fair and never really even got on the midway before those two locked eyes and began to approach ... quickly. I ran over and helped pull them apart and while I was holding him back, the other guy's sister decided to take a swing at my friend. Well, my friend ducked and she smashed me right in the nose; the first and only bloody nose I have ever had and I had a pretty nasty black eye. Now-a-days I laugh when I tell the story because over the years she and I became friends and to hear her side of how it all went down is utterly hilarious.

Now that I'm a parent, the fair doesn't really seem the same. The ride are not as fast or as big as they were when I was a kid for obvious reasons. The things that will remain constant are great food and family fun ... and that the start of the Union Fair means the end of the summer in Maine.

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