County Fairs/Barely There – (RetroFlash Doggerel*) by
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To the big fair in Springfield we all go up.

I drink a bad soda and quickly throw up.

The rest of the fair is pretty outrageous

As the other kids all think I’m contagious.

Fair nearer home filled me with dread

Seeing a horse pulling weights suddenly drop dead.

They now hold this event with tractor power

But the thought of this horse still makes me cower.


The Wisconsin State Fair we nearly tried,

Though mainly it offered food that was fried.

I admit that’s not something that’s terribly hateful,

But taking a pass made my arteries grateful.




 Retro prompts do get me generally pumped.

But the one for this week had me quite “fairly” stumped.

Just a few lousy memories of unhappy times,

So I’ve resorted to doggerel with some badly forced rhymes.

And the RetroFlash format headed me towards

Securing, at most, a Participation Award.

(Per my own, self-proclaimed rules, footnotes are not included in RetroFlash word counts. And especially parentheticals in footnotes.)

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin

Characterizations: funny


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I thought you described you experiences quite well, John – they were not fun for you and produced bad memories. No shame there. And your little ditty describes your emotions well.

    We’ve never been big fair people either, though taking our kids to the one on the Vineyard (which at least is manageable) was fun for a while. I rather like your verses. I think they fit the mood and the pictures that you found are good too. In all, a successful Retro/Flash.

  2. Oh dear John a dead horse not a good memory, nor throwing up at the Fair, but thanx for the doggerel!

    You’re surely out to squelch that stuffy Harvard lawyer image, ain’t you?

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    There is always more than one side to a story, just as the lovely picture from a trip doesn’t convey the smells and discomforts. You are surely in the company of many who have puked at a fair (not to mention Oktoberfests). I have never liked manufactured “fun” (am I the only person who DOESN’T want to go to Disneyland???). Your poem was fun though, while capturing the other side of the fair.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Khati. I try not to be a curmudgeon, but there are certain things that do trigger it in me. But, for the record, there are many of us who do not want to ever go to Disneyland — though I did suffer through it a few times for various reasons.

  4. Marian says:

    Dynamite doggerel, John. You are among friends regarding Disneyland. I hated it as a child. Later, when I had to set up a trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center, I went for the afternoon and had control over what I did. Observing people was fine, no rides, no lines.

  5. Suzy says:

    Okay, I LOVE Disneyland! You might have suspected that. I hate the crowds, of course, but I love the rides. Guess it appeals to my inner child. And fairs are not nearly as crowded as Disneyland, and there are plenty of things to do that don’t require waiting in lines (in fact, most things).

    Your doggerel is adorable (almost-rhyme semi-intended), but it makes me sad that you have had such bad times at fairs. I feel compelled to take you to a fair where you have fun! Next summer in Sacramento?

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks re doggerel, Suzy. And, as I have read your story and others, I realize that I, too, have actually had very nice times at fairs — particularly the ones that the volunteer fire department used to sponsor on 4th of July weekends in my hometown. So I am not sure why I focused my story on just a couple of downer moments.

      But, yes, barring forest fires and/or COVID, Sacramento in ’22 sounds great. I assume Retro will have its own booth at the fair.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    You definitely win a participant ribbon for this, John. And I completely agree with your assessment of these fairs.

  7. The Big E! Of course. Having lived in central CT I remember it well. And I’m not surprised by your unfortunate viewing of a horse pulling contest gone wrong. I was always startled by the violence of the effort when the team charged forward from a standstill. But you did miss an opportunity in ‘Sconsin. All those curds and whey.

    • John Shutkin says:

      I thought you’d know of the Big E. Of course, when I went there as a kid, it was still referred to by its un-hyped named: the Eastern States Exposition.

      As to Wisconsin, there certainly were plenty of curds — cheese curds, of course — but I think they may have lost their whey.

  8. Or they were wheylaid. When I lived in Lake Co IL we used to drive into southern WI just for a change of scene, not to mention topography. I remember in the Lake Geneva area curds, and whey, abounded.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Touche. Actually, we first had cheese curds in Wisconsin one Labor Day weekend when we went out to Madison and they had a huge farmers’ market/fair surrounding the capital building. (That was when Scott Walker was governor; I wish the curds had caught on fire and burned the place down.)

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