Field Notes

Field Trip:

Field Trip: Monona County Fair (Part 4)

July 19th, 2010 by Bryan Bedell


monona“These are great, but I’m not a farmer.” We’ve heard this more than a couple of times tonight. Another was “I’ll have to send my husband is, because he’s a farmer and he’ll understand.” So we’ve come 502 miles to find authentic, rural Americana, only to find that it’s we who seem to rural and authentic. If movies have shown us anything, it’s that a road trip always leads to getting to know yourself better, and this must be our third act denouement, where we learn that our memo books look like (or really are) the real deal. But we’d tell people, “You don’t have to be a farmer. You can use them for anything,” and that’s seemed to work pretty well.

The demolition derby got started a bit late, with the announcer getting on the PA system every once in a while to tell corny jokes and let everyone know that they were still getting some kinks worked out. What kinks you need to work out at an event where the point is to forcibly disable things, we’re not sure, but the wait wound up being good for business, as much larger crowds started filing in around 6:00. Like throughout the day, most of the people who stopped by our building were there for the 4-H vegetables, but they’d swing by after checking out grand prize winning stalk of corn to see what we were all about.

Once the derby finally kicked off, the arena being directly behind us, the building started rattling and sounding like you’re sitting next to a couple of 747’s engines going at full bore. Strangely, we never heard any distinct car crash noises, though at one point something big and loud smashed into the side of our building, maybe something flying off a car, and that put us on edge for a while.

Another volunteer for the Friends of the Onawa Library showed up for her spot to run the booth. She talked to us a bunch about the area, explaining the Loess Hills and how no one over 65 has to pay state income tax in Iowa, which is why so many people like her have retired here. She told us that they were planning to close their booth down early, so if we wouldn’t mind watching after it once they’d left, they’d appreciate it. We told them we’d collect any money for book sales (25¢ for paperback, 50¢ for hardcover) and drop it through the mail slot on our way out of town.

After the burly man carrying (and regularly using) a backscratcher came in to chat and Daniel spotted a farmer in overalls who had large diamond earrings in both ears, our friend the 4-H kid, showed back up again. “So you sold anything yet?” he asked. “Yep,” we told him. Then he talked to us for a while about why he didn’t want to exhibit meat goats and why he prefers to show sheep. Sometimes it would get bit technical and he’d lose us, but we tried to keep up.

Around 9:45, the sun nearly all set, we started packing up. It’d been a long day, but a fun time. We’d met a lot of great people, learned some about the town with the widest main street and the birthplace of the Eskimo Pie, and sold a few of our new County Fair books along the way. By 10:15, the fair was all shut down, we’d loaded up the car and were heading to the one restaurant still open: the BBQ place next to the interstate attached to the truck stop. Covered in a mix of bug spray, sunscreen, and sweat, we were exhausted, but very happy we came. After a well-deserved night of sleep and 10 hours on the road tomorrow, we’d be home.

Video soon.