Sep 17 2014


How I Emptied My Wallet at the County Fair

ferriswheelNelson and I took the boys to the Charles County Fair this past weekend. Yes, school has started, and unlike any other place in the U.S. that I know of, Charles County doesn’t have their fair until after school starts. They always have a Fair Day on Friday, where the kids have it off and teachers have to work. I believe all the 4-H shows are on that Friday.

So, the fair was Thursday-Sunday, and the kids could get a bracelet on Sunday that allowed for unlimited rides at the carnival. We had coupons for $5 off each bracelet. I was thinking they were $20/bracelet, so $15 with the $5 off.  They were actually $25 a piece, minus the $5, so $20. But, more on that later.

Let me start with my background in 4-H fairs. Back in the good ol’ days (1980-90s) in rural Indiana, I was an 11-year 4-H member, showing pigs and taking a variety of other projects. I learned how to bake goodies and sew outfits that I never wore in public. I was once the junior livestock judging champion (1984, I believe) and got my first trophy. I learned a lot about leadership, being a good citizen, and not getting too attached to farm animals.

4-Hers where I grew up were hard core. Our pigs were mostly raised in a finishing building, with climate control and automatic food and water, so it’s not like I spent countless hours slaving in the barn. But, fair week was a big deal. We bought a new shirt and cowboy boots for show day. Certain families were known to spend hundreds of dollars each year for a 40-lb pig from good breeding stock who had “Grand Champion” potential. An expensive trophy, some said. Many kids stayed all night at the fair, but my dad never let us do that, saying we never slept with pigs at home and didn’t need to at the fair. Others would park their campers at the fairgrounds and stay for the week–their annual summer vacation.

So, coming from that background, the Charles County Fair is very small-scale. But, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

Here’s how I emptied my wallet.

The entrance fee was $5 for adults, and kids 10 and under were free. So, we paid $10 to get in. We had just come from church and were hungry, so we started with lunch. I saw the Italian sausage stand and was going to get one of those until I saw it was $8. So, Nelson and I settled for a $3.50 hotdog each and got the boys corn dogs for $4, along with two $3 drinks that we all shared (so, $21 for a very small lunch).

We browsed the animals, very small 4-H displays, and vendors. The boys wanted to ride the rides, so we went to get tickets. Bracelets were $20 each. Lucas wasn’t tall enough to ride many of the rides without an adult, so we ended up buying Nelson a bracelet, too. ($60 down)

After the rides, we had planned to get ice cream (which I have to mention, in my former Indiana town, is sold for a $1 for a one-dip cone). However, by that time I only had $5 left. Lucas was thirsty, so we went in search of an ATM machine. Thankfully on the way, we came across a tent where some folks from a local church were handing out free water. We talked with them for a while and then headed home. I made us ice cream cones at home.


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