County Fair

On Thursday my kids and I went with my mom to the fair and my evening prayer went like this:

Dear God, thank You for cool, cloudy summer days and for county fairs. For American traditions and the smells of wood smoke, kettle corn, cotton candy, and sawdust. For the sounds of kids laughing and tractors running and horses whickering. For old farm buildings draped with American flags and labeled with hand-painted “Agriculture” signs.

get-attachment.aspxThank you for decorated veterans proudly manning VFW cables and for strong young soldiers manning recruitment tents. For your creations: donkeys and giant cows and ducks and pigs and crazy-looking chickens with fluff balls of white feathers on their heads. For a 3-year-old who has to pet every sow’s ear that’s sticking out of a pen. For a daughter who observes the turkeys and says, “Take a look at the snood on that one!”

Thank you for excited children and little sticky hands in mine and little boys excited to ride on Kubota tractors and for the world’s biggest pumpkin. For blue-ribbon Gladiolas and peanut butter cookies and for little old ladies who sit by and guard their crocheted entries in the fine arts building. For friends to laugh with and the sun on our faces and beneath us, the grass trampled down from hundreds of passing-by human and animal feet.

For 4-H projects and kids who work so hard to make them. For the men and women and boys and girls who try to make this world a better place. For volunteers who are teaching children to follow along behind them. For policeman and deputies maintaining a presence to make us feel safe. For community heroes – firemen and EMTs, clergy, the people who just want to be helpers.

"Look at the snood on that one!"

“Look at the snood on that one!”

For eyes to see the collections of Elvis memorabilia, handmade artwork, prize-winning jams and jellies, salt-and-pepper shakers, ceramic roosters, and fairy dish gardens. For my mom and my children, all in good health and walking along beside me.

For the farmers who grow food for the world, for the land that they’re tied to, for the enduring path they lead their children and their grandchildren. For strong boys in mud-splattered jeans and work boots and John Deere caps. For little girls with sun-kissed skin in tank tops and Justin boots leading their prize-winning sheep around on a rope.

Thank you God for cooler days, for memories of times past and remembered fairs in far-away places. For enduring traditions and for people who still believe in You and in the American way.

God, I knew that You were everywhere, but this morning when I woke up, I never dreamed that I would run into You at The County Fair.

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Magic is in the Air

Magic Shop,” read the faded sign over the door.  

It was nothing fancy: storefront glass smudged by a thousand kids’ fingerprints as they passed by outside, rickety floors, paint peeling off the door. It was just an old corner store on the downtown strip of busy little summer lake-town. Somehow still it beckoned to us.

We ventured inside and met a local legend.

His name was Whip.

Whip (whose given name is Bill) and his sister Pat and their brother (who is now passed away) have run this place together since 1977.

My kids don’t notice the dust, the musty smell, or the run down look of the place. Once inside, they pay no attention to the sounds of the motorcycles roaring past or the laughter of the ice-cream cone eaters strolling up and down the sidewalks outside.

Once inside, they only have eyes for Whip and his magic.

It’s like a place right out of an old movie. There are glass cases and showcases full of every trick in the book. Cup-and-ball tricks, loaded dice, mental projection boards, fake blood, finger-severing-guillotines, vanishing tricks. There’s a “baby alien” inside a jar of some mysterious liquid. There are fireworks, too, like Cobra Black Snakes and Morning Glories – and a free pack of sparklers with every $2 purchase.

Basically, it’s a dream come true for kids. They have everything in there – books about Houdini, vampire teeth, fake dog poop, everything you ever needed to know about juggling, stink bombs, you name it.

“There’s a lot of ‘F’ words in here,” Josie whispers to me. I look around and she’s right, there are a lot of ‘F’ words – there’s Fart Powder, Fart Cushions, and Fart Alarms, just to name a few.

Sadie, who considers herself a magician-in-training, can’t believe how lucky she is to have stumbled upon such a place. She takes it all in and asks Whip all kinds of questions. He is kind, personable (as all good magicians are), talented, and patient. He refuses to let her waste money on tricks he deems “not up to par” for aspiring young magicians. Instead, he takes the time to send everyone else away to the opposite side of the store while he shows her the secret of “Two-Card Monte.” She ends up spending her own money on several new things to add to her own “box of tricks” including some cards and a Disappearing Drawer.

Josie was more interested in learning about The Spiked Coin trick (which Whip also showed her how to do) and Adelaide couldn’t wait to get her hands on her very own magical coloring book which she spotted in one of the big glass cases. She spent the rest of the evening trying it out on her little brother.

What caught my interest was a smoking dog. I hadn’t seen one of those things since I was probably six years old and I was so excited when I saw it there on the shelf! I remember when my daddy and my grandpa showed one to me – they thought it was the funniest thing ever and I remember being completely mesmerized by it. Of course, now that I see it with my grown-up eyes it seems a lot less mystical and a lot more plastic and cheesy, but still – it’s a memory that I cherish. I even bought a second one for my daddy. I wish my Grandpa were still around and I would share “a cigarette” with him and his dog too.

Speaking of cigarettes, against my better judgment, my husband bought the girls some fake smoking cigarettes. Even though it makes ME feel sick to see them puffing away on what I know is a FAKE cigarette, they can barely contain their excitement to try them out and hopefully fool their cousins.

Sadie summed it up perfectly as we walked back out into the summer night – back out to the modern world of streetlights, lemonade and fresh donuts. “This place is amazing!” Looking back over her shoulder, she added, “Next year, I want to come back to see Whip and I’m going to spend EVERY CENT of my birthday money in here!”

If you’re ever out in Geneva-on-the-Lake, you should stop by and meet Whip and his sister. Go back in time and buy some old tricks you’ve forgotten about or even a new one – amaze your friends! Our new favorite magician will show you everything you need to know… and hey, you might even get yourself some free sparklers.

Whip, our new favorite magician, teaches the kids a new trick

Whip, our new favorite magician, teaches the kids a new trick