The air is thick with the smells of popcorn, fried dough, and cotton candy all swirling together. It's intoxicating. The sky is getting darker and the bright light of the amusement rides flash around me. It's stimulating. Bells, whistles, and shouts emit from all around. It's fun. The town people mill about, clustering in front of games or food stations chatting about nothing. It's community.
It's fair time.

I look around this grassy field and marvel at what people are wearing. The soccer moms are decked out in sweatshirts and jeans while their teenage daughters are in tank tops and shorts. The weather is tricky in New England this time of year. Moms are bracing themselves for the severe Connecticut winters while their children desperately try to linger in the summer. It's fall and although we don't live in Vermont, the landscape is about to turn beautiful. But that's not going through the heads of these people yet. They are thinking about their little bathing suits all packed away for next year. Do you know what that means? It's time to EAT!

Families tend to gather at the picnic tables next to the numerous trailers where it's easy to find something for everyone. A dad feeds his two young children French fries soaked in ketchup, while a young couple attempt to share fried dough only resulting in covering themselves with powdered sugar. I bet you could hear their giggles from across the field. A little girl walks by; her face coated in the sticky red goo that can only mean a candy apple was thoroughly enjoyed. There are no low-fat, Atkins-friendly, or vitamin-added foods here. This is real.

There goes a surly group of teenagers heading to the dark areas behind the trailers and vans parked around the perimeter. I've seen the same kids before. They smoke and drink and then laugh when they subsequently vomit after riding the rides and washing down their cotton candy with the whiskey from their father's liquor cabinet. They are just having fun. It's a small town- not a lot of room for rebellion for these kids.

And then, there are the poor freshmen. It's very easy to spot them; they all have huge marker-written F's on their faces. Tonight is the night that they will be welcomed into high school. They walk as if on eggshells, wide-eyed and waiting for a senior to grab their arm and take them into the dark surrounding soccer fields. They will return coated in condiments, rotten foods, and who knows what else, and their parents will pick them up in plastic-lined cars to avoid stains. They will remember this night forever.

I sometimes wonder what its like to be the people who work at the fair. Do they know how special what they create is? Small towns light up when those trailers arrive toting the Ferris wheel; the atmosphere changes. Families travel together and forget about the petty fights and anger that might be at home. Freshmen learn about life in high school, and seniors are able to reflect on when they entered the "big world." Lives change. You can see your neighbor, your mailman, or even your elementary school teacher if you look around.

That's what I try to do every year when a barren field is turned into a playground for adults and children combined. I breathe in the smells, take in the sights and record the sounds in my mind. I'll remember this beautiful fall evening when the winter comes and I'm shoveling my car out of 8 inches of snow. I'll remember this night when I'm older and taking my own children to the fair. I'll always remember because it is a happy place. It is intoxicating, stimulating, fun, and it's our community. Welcome to the fair- welcome to life.