Monday, August 28, 2006


Saturday at the SuperEx

I love fall fairs. I totally don't get people who haven't been to the fair in years - how can you not love them? Since I was a little girl, I don't think I've missed a year. I'll admit, I love the Western Fair, in my hometown of London, Ontario, best of them all. London's inability to shake off its agricultural background makes the Western Fair a true fall fair with lots of livestock barns and pavillions full of exhibitors selling all manner of weird stuff, from hot tubs to acres of land on the moon.

The SuperEx is Ottawa's our region's biggest fall fair, but there are probably a dozen more in each of the small outlying communities like Metcalfe, Richmond, and Navan. It's the inconveniently-located SuperEx that I never miss, though. It rarely changes, and that probably has a lot to do with why I love it so. And yet, this year was undoubtably one of the best years ever.

I don't ride the midway rides much anymore, but now the boys are old enough to enjoy them, and I get to ride the merry-go-round for free and without feeling a little self-conscious. I did feel a little self-conscious riding bareback on a pony with Simon, but that was only because the 12-year-old girl leading the horse seemed overly concerned about my welfare, and her partner held on to my leg more tightly than they held on to Tristan riding by himself ahead of us. (And trying to hold on to a pony with your knees while balancing a two-year-old in front of you and still looking confident in your equestrian skills for the full five minute duration of the ride is more complicated than it looks - my knees still hurt.)

This year was the first time we were told that Tristan was too big to ride on a ride. Too big. He's four years old, for goodness sake. And it didn't look like a baby ride by any stretch of the imagination - it was a bunch of little cars made up to look like heavy machinery like backhoes and dump trucks and whatnot. What four year old wouldn't love to do that?

They were both big enough to walk through the fun house by themselves, which I personally thought was a bad idea. They were fine all the way through, but Simon looked increasingly distressed at the noise, and the traffic backed up behind him as he oh-so-slowly navigated the shifting floor panels. I finally had to go in and rescue him to get him through the rolling barrel of a tunnel at the exit. It brought back memories of being scared half to death and getting stuck in a haunted house back when I was eight or nine, and standing at a window crying until my dad came in and escorted me out.

If I had to choose one thing, I'd say it was the games that I love the most. I like the squirt-the-clown's mouth games, and the roll-the-balls to move your gravatar games, and especially the bet-on-the-horses game where you win loonies instead of dollar-store toys. The big hit for the boys this year was a shiny, multicoloured bead necklace remnant of Mardi Gras. Who would have guessed?

I love the exhibitions, too, especially the animal ones. We were admiring this large yellow snake when the handler draped her (him?) across my shoulders. Very cool, but it was a struggle convincing Beloved to come close enough even to snap this picture.

The most amazing part of the day was how the boys behaved. Granny and Papa Lou were with us, so the boys were deprived of nothing that caught their eyes, but they seemed to take everything with a grace that I don't see every day. I was so proud of Tristan's attitude, especially toward Simon. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the noise and the lights and everything else, but his manners never failed. He was especially considerate of Simon, too, making sure he saw the cool stuff and helping him on and off the rides. A whole day at the fair with no squabbles - I didn't think it was possible.

Best day at the fair ever, no doubt. Even the long walk back to the car, parked a few blocks away in the leafy district, was pleasant. Even Tristan seemed aware of the magic, as he referred again and again to our "most special day" at the fair.

Sure, you can complain about the cost, or the noise, or the inconvenience, but I would - and will - do it all over again just to make sure the boys' mental photo albums are filled with happy days like these.