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Fair Time In Ephrata

September 26, 2008

By Stauffer, Cindy

We have come to the Ephrata Fair, my 12-year-old son and I, to fill our bellies, to ride, to gawk at stuff and to win. Over the next three hours, we will examine pawpaws and pig ears. We will eat chicken corn soup and slurp a chocolate milk shake. One skittish 48- year-old acrophobic will ride the Ferris wheel.

Two bus rides, $27.50 and 10 pingpong balls later, we reluctantly walk away from the canopy of bright lights and the smell of funnel cakes, carrying a little fish named Efrain.

Life is good.

***

My son has never been to the Ephrata Fair, or really any other fair. People, I admit this is pitiful. Lancaster County hosts a parade of fairs every fall. Where have we been?

On the way to Ephrata, I outline the wonders that await us: food, rides, games, animals and vegetables.

Vegetables? the boy asks, making a face.

We walk into the Ephrata Fair office and check out this year’s entries, skinny hot peppers, creamy bush scallop squashes and Tom Sheaffer’s first-place Italian tomatoes.

They look perfect on their plate, but the second-place Italian tomatoes look pretty darn good, too. I wonder out loud what the difference is.

“I don’t know,” says the boy, who has grown up in town. “You’re asking the wrong farmer.”

A few plates down are what we think are pears, but turn out to be pawpaws. What in the heck, the boy asks, is a pawpaw?

“You’re asking the wrong farmer,” I say.

(Turns out it’s a fruit that tastes like a banana and a mango. I looked it up.)

***

The next half-hour is a flurry of eating. We are trying to watch our budget (I have brought $40, but don’t want to spend it all) so we decide to split our food, so we can try a bunch of things.

“I don’t know why anyone likes funnel cakes,” the boy notes. “They’re just fatty and sugary but, then again, who doesn’t like fatty and sugary?”

Not us, that’s for sure.

We settle on french fries from Fink’s, chicken corn soup from the Hinkletown Mennonite Church, the famous toasted cheeseburger from the Akron Lion’s Club and fried Oreos from a red and white stand. All delicious and totaling $11.50.

As our stomachs settle, we nip into the Ephrata Lions Club tent to play a few games of Bingo. It’s 25 cents a card and we decide to play $1 worth, or two cards each.

The games are over too quickly, but the boy and I are both born optimists so we decide to splurge another 50 cents. We don’t win but it’s fun to dream about what we would do with the $9.75 a woman near us wins. (I’m thinking more Fink’s french fries. My son is thinking a target-shooting game out on the midway.)

***

We head toward the shuttle bus that will take us to Tent City, the animals and the farm machinery.

On board, it’s just us and six teenage boys, who are all “DUDE!” and stubbly whiskers and muscly arms and “Sara? You know Sara?”

I look at them and at the smooth-faced redhead sitting next to me and think: This is coming but I am glad for this night, which suddenly feels like the edge of something else.

At Tent City, we hang over the edge of a pig pen and wonder why the porkers’ ears are notched. A very patient Kerry Boyd, who raises pigs out on Clay Road, explains the system that delineates both a litter and an individual pig. I’m from the suburbs, so he has to explain it twice.

Just as we walk away, an older gentleman comes up to Boyd and asks, “Why do you notch the pigs’ ears?”

***

Back on the midway, we decide to pick one ride since they are kind of pricey – $7.50 for one ride for the two of us.

The Ferris wheel has been an Ephrata Fair tradition so I choose that, even though I am a lily-livered chicken who is terrified of heights.

Once aboard, I close my eyes tight as we gently circle up and around. It feels like we are flying.

“Look!” the boy says. “Look!”

I open my eyes and see the lights of the fair spread out before me from our perch in the night sky. It is beautiful.

***

On our way to the car, my son tries his hand at target-shooting. I try my hand at the fish bowl game.

I pay the carnival guy a buck for a basket of 10 dinged-up pingpong balls. We fling away and the last one – PLOP – lands in a fish bowl.

The guy promises to do his best to get us a lively fish. He peers into a teeming tank and carefully extracts one little swimmer, gently placing it into a small container.

“What is your name?” I ask him.

“Efrain,” he says.

So that is what we name our fish.

I worry that Efrain will go the way of our household’s other fish: Fuzznut, Charlie, Larry, Larry Jr. and Larry III, may they rest in peace.

But this morning, he is still doing laps in his bowl.

Results from Ephrata Fair:

Six to 8 years olds – Austin Sauder of Stevens;

Girls 9 to 11 years old – Jade Zimmerman of Reinholds;

Boys 9 to 11 years old – Austin Sensenig of Ephrata;

Girls 12 to 15 years old – Jamie Auker of Denver;

Boys 12 to 15 years old – Christopher Martin of Ephrata;

Girls 16 years old and older – Kelly Martin of Ephrata;

Boys 16 years old and older – Keith Martin of Lititz;

Four and 5 years old – Brooke Zimmerman of Lititz;

Grand champion – Matt Mitchell; Reserve grand champion – Jared Garman;

Light weight: Champion – Alaysia Pfautz; Reserve champion – Travis Dull;

Medium weight: Champion – Chelsey Becker; Reserve champion – Jadon Pfautz;

Light heavy weight: Champion – Matt Mitchell; Reserve champion – Moriah Pfautz;

Heavy weight: Champion – Jared Garman; Reserve champion – Teagan Pfautz.

Staff writer Cindy Stauffer can be reached at cstauffer@LNPnews.com or 481-6024.

Tonight: The big parade at 7 p.m.

Thursday: Kiddies Day from noon to 6 p.m., featuring reduced ride prices. Tug-of-war at 8 p.m.

Friday: Petting zoo and pony rides from 4 to 9 p.m.

Saturday: Baby parade at 1 p.m. Midway closes at 11 p.m.

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