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Speical Section: Altamont Fair Preview Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 7, 2008

From tractors to task master, Tucker grows up at the fair

By Michael Seinberg

We’ve been taking our son, Tucker, to the Altamont Fair for about 15 years. That’s 15 years of animals; rides; horse poop; fair food; elephant poop; games; museums; cow poop; and gut-wrenching, vomit-inducing rides.

Thinking back over the past years, Tucker has literally grown up going to the fair every summer and it’s been really interesting to watch how things have changed over a decade-and-a-half.

His first trip to the fair was in-utero. My wife, Meg, was eight months pregnant the first time we “took” Tucker to the fair and it was my first trip as well. I suspect his exposure at that point, albeit a little filtered, had a definite effect on his future trips.

Since it was my first time, we explored everything. Tucker got to hear the animals, the loud music on the midway, and I think he got a taste of fair food as I know we ate something.

We went through the museums, spending extra time in the fire, car, carriage, and historical buildings. We played a few games, but skipped the rides, as taking a very pregnant person on rides seemed a little risky. All in all, a very good start for Tucker, and I had a great time too.

The following year, he really got his first taste. Tucker learned to walk at 10 months and learned to run at 10 months and 15 seconds, so the fair was quite the trip for someone not quite 1 year old.

I recall having him in either a stroller or backpack but, even at that point, he was pretty clear about what he liked. His favorite ride that year, and for the next several, was the John Deere tractor area in the infield. Mind you, these were brand-new tractors that a dealer brings every year to sell, but to Tucker, these were the best rides there.

He literally spent the better part of an hour climbing and wobbling from one tractor to the next, getting Meg or me to lift him up into the seat. He just loved it.

He also showed great interest in the animals, both the farm ones in the barns and the exotic ones in the petting and riding area.

Fair food didn’t hold a whole lot of interest that year, as teeth were still in short supply. The loud music was an issue and at that age Tucker really hated loud things (though he created loud noise quite effectively, thank you).

I seem to recall getting him on a couple of the kiddie rides and he seemed to like them for the most part. We did walk through the museums, and, true to form, he liked the cars and fire engines, but wasn’t too keen on the rest just yet. So year two went pretty well.

Year of the Sword

Year three was the Year of the Sword. One of the games in the kiddie ride area awarded toy samurai swords if you picked a duck from the pond. Thankfully, the kids got to choose a prize and I’m pretty sure you couldn’t actually lose that game.

Well, having spent much of the previous year turning every stick he could find into a sword, his pick was for a real one. To say he was happy about his prize would be the understatement of the century.

Hugh Hefner with his first set of blonde triplets wasn’t half as thrilled as Tucker with his first sword. I think he slept with it next to his crib. He carried it everywhere and, when it finally broke, well, memorial services were held.

For the next several years, getting one or more swords was a critical requirement for a trip to the fair. I think he had to have one through at least age 7.

But the next several years had him moving from the tractors to the actual rides and wanting to play more games. He quickly learned that many of the games were pretty hard to win (though even in his early teens, he still tried once or twice).

His appreciation for fair food began to expand into candy, Sno Cones, soft pretzels (still a diet staple), cotton candy, and lemonade. No meats though, as he’s still pretty much vegetarian to this day.

Moving on

By about second or third grade, Tucker was a seasoned Altamont Fair veteran with a definite agenda each year. He liked to take a trip through one of the candy stores to pick out a variety of candy by the pound (one of my favorites, too).

Some rides were always in order and he liked the ring toss game where you could win pocket-knives. He and I usually bought a big basket of rings and took turns. Before they changed the game to make it pretty much impossible to win, we managed to win at least two knives.

He still liked to stop by the animals, the car and fire museum, but by now he’d graduated to the circus museum and taking part in the Backyard Circus. This surprised me due to the ever-present creepy clown faces on posters and walls, but I guess they bugged me more than him.

The next big step around fifth grade was to start to get on the bigger rides with his friends. The first year they made that height requirement was quite an event.

Of course repeated forays onto certain rides proved costly and barf-inducing in equal amounts, but, hey, that’s what the fair is all about at that age. At this point, they would travel in a pack presided over by a parent or two but they were seriously on their way to the golden event; going to the fair alone!

Somewhere around seventh grade, Tucker gained a lot more height and could now ride pretty much any ride he picked. We would wait for ride bracelet day and Meg would take him and his friends and maybe another mom would go along and the pack would spend more than a few hours trying to set records for consecutive rides on the Barf-and-hurl or the Choke-and-puke or whatever would cause the most vertigo, intestinal distress, and adrenaline rushes.

Alas, the John Deere tractors were long forgotten and the animals were something the parents looked at while the kids whirled about 40 feet in the air.

Fair workers

But the biggest change came this year when Tucker graduated from fairgoer to fair employee. That’s right; we can now proudly proclaim that our son has an official summer job at the fair.

He can be seen carting trash, painting, shoveling a wide variety of animal excrement, and doing many other varied and demanding tasks around the fairgrounds. For the first time in 15 years, we won’t have to pay so he can go to the fair. Now he gets paid (every father’s fondest wish).

So there it is. Fifteen years from unborn fairgoer to fair employee. It’s amazing what happens at the fair if you just wait long enough. We hope, he’ll be able to take his kids to the fair one day. Maybe next year, we’ll keep the tradition up and take Jet, our grandson, to his first fair. We’ve got a date with the tractors.

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