Somerset County Carnival


Climbing down and crawling up these mountains we found ourselves back on the road today, and the road was curvy windy through cattleyards, them grazing in their apple tree shade, and long and steady like a hot engine uphill. Being in motion is slower these days, but it leaves more time for the mind to wander.

And believe me, the mind is sharp and focused, if anything too needlishly steady, often enough that a slow break is a new welcome.

We made tracks to the Somerset County Fair, tucked deeply into a heavily wooded, substantially hilled valley and between a stone bridge gapping a creek and a live motion train. Really, it was all too poetically “back home” in every way.

There was the midway, majestic and focal…on your left towers the grandstands, readied for anything from a demolition derby to a beauty pagent featuring horses…on your right, all of the funnel cakes, ferris wheels and carnival people you could find.

We made coneheads and fatsos out of ourselves in the fun house, had mammoth downhill burlap sack races on the funslides, and paid to play carnie games we knew were rigged but wanted to try our luck with anyway.

But that leads to the beautifully most wonderful part. Think back on your youth, those childhood days visiting your local fireman’s carnival or county fair. We all remember the gnarley-toothed, drunken breathed and missing fingers atmosphere that surrounded “the carnie”. And this particular fair had, also traveling with them, many young foreigners. Foreigners of Eastern European descent. Which, of course, made them all the more exotically cool.

Then remember back on those childhood fairs again. Remember the outer limits, behind the horse barns and tucked away in he corners. The RVs.

These people, carniefolk, they travel the country, some maybe fulltime and all of their lives, some maybe only for a summer or so, some, maybe they start out one way and end up in the other. They live where they work, and their work travels. It’s not just a representation of an idea from a movie or a book or fable, it’s reality, as much today as it was in the dustbowl or Romania or otherwise.

Long live those gypsies.