If you begin counting now and assume that the 2024 Midwinter Fair start date remains the same, you only have about 353 days to wait. I say this because I am counting the days. Sort of.

We went to the Fair despite a slight decline in the group of friends who usually go together. I was proud of myself for copying the QR code in this newspaper, which transferred to a webpage, where I ordered our tickets. The tickets were the same price as last year as was the parking fee.

We go on Tuesday night, the day after High School Madness. This should be self explanatory if you’ve ever seen High School Madness. There’s plenty of room on Tuesday. The parking lot is far from full — contrasted with Saturday afternoon, when I’m unsure a Fiat 500 would fit. If you go for the rides, the lines are also short on Tuesday.

We focused on a few things but we skipped Balloonacy, the hypnotist, and Washboard Willy. Hey, time is limited, and there is so much to see. I think we participated in Wild Science. Well, my dear wife did. She volunteered for a static electricity experiment. The result was that her long, thick hair stood straight up, and she momentarily looked like an AC/DC rock star whose electric guitar wasn’t grounded. People gathered around to see what would happen to her. She’s game for these sorts of things, but only kids followed to give it a jolt. This fit in with the Fair’s theme which was “Feel the Groove,” and feel the current she did.

Mary and I merely marveled at the different science demonstrations and got busy gathering free pencils, pencil sharpeners, fans, and IVC pennants. And the Farm Bureau was handing out frisbees imprinted with, “Burn a bale, go to jail.” The frisbee fit the hippie theme, but not so much the message. However, the strong presence of law enforcement in the Preble Building backed up the go to jail warning.

By the way, whatever happened to the sumptuous displays of fruits and vegetables in the Preble building? Have local farmers abandoned the Mid-Winter Fair? The other absence was the missing art, craft and food competitions. The fair marketing promised a return to a full Fair. Maybe next year.

The next stop was the Gem and Mineral Society building. The permanent exhibit is wondrous with unusual crystals and rocks that glow in the dark. Thinking back on the magical 1970s, people would often see colorful, glowing rocks. This inadvertently fit the “Feel the Groove” theme, but the real attractions are the gold mining exhibit where optimistic fair goers can pan for gold or purchase a geode at the other end of the building. I took my time choosing a geode, and asked for help from the Gem and Mineral staffer who sold it to me. Then I took it to the man who saws the geodes in half. A small crowd gathered. There’s a drum roll, and we await the big moment when we see inside the geode. It was a beautiful light gray crystal and agate. I sent half to a friend for her birthday. Like, share the groove, man.

We saved the best for last: the animal barns. From goats to funny looking chickens, and the blackest rabbits I’ve ever seen. The 4-H and FFA members were all willing to answer our questions about their animals. Sharp kids. And the mother on barn watch told us an interesting story about their neighbor, a city type, who didn’t like the backyard smell of their three little lambs. Didn’t this guy ever read nursery rhymes? Hey, man, like feel the groove.

We returned home with bags full of pens and pencils, coloring books, and items only found at the California Mid-Winter Fair. On the way out we met a couple of 12-foot tall stilt walkers who carried on a conversation with us. They needed to move constantly to keep their balance. My dear wife’s closing question was, "How do you go to the bathroom?" Fair question.

Richard Ryan is at rryan@sdsu.edu.

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