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Was it worth it? Memories of the State Fair


5:00 a.m. No alarm needed. Mom slipped out of bed, put on her wash dress and everyday apron and tiptoed downstairs. She scooped a dollop of shortening into the cast-iron fry pan and took the chicken out of the refrigerator. Darlene and Dorothy had helped get things ready last night. They had made potato salad, baked two apple pies and cut up chickens. As the grease began to sizzle, she rolled the chicken pieces in seasoned flour and plunked them in the frypan. Soon, a wonderful aroma permeated the kitchen.

The stair door opened with a squeak. Dad padded in. “Smells good already!” He pulled on his work boots. Before going out for chores, he gave his wife a peck on the cheek. “You go to a lot of work for this day. Is it worth it?” She added a drumstick and nodded a smile.

7:45 a.m. Our black Ford Fairlane drew to the stop sign at the intersection of Highway 25 and 14. A steady stream of cars rolled by. Ten minutes later, there was a brief break in traffic, and Dad eased in.

We were off! Mom, Dad and their four youngest headed for Huron. A day at the South Dakota State Fair! Our parents had enjoyed the tradition since their oldest children were big enough to go. Those two were on their own now, a reminder of how time flies, and kids grow up in the blink of an eye. I think they understood at the time how important it was to make memories. Obviously, they did it right. Every one of us remembers the fair.

8:15 a.m. We drove into the fairground parking lot, a rough, sod-covered expanse. At the gate, we got our hands stamped. We agreed to meet back at the car at noon.

Dad and Delmer set their sights for the machinery. Acres of shiny-new inventions invited farmers to buy. Partial to green, the men found themselves in the middle of new John Deere mowers, combines and other contraptions. A friendly salesman came along and shook hands with both. “Is this the next farmer in the family?” Delmer’s chest swelled with pride.

The three ambled through the lineup. “I bet this young man would like to get the feel of the new 730 tractor.” A glance at Dad for permission, and Delmer scrambled up to the yellow seat. When they were ready to move on, the salesman handed Dad a packet of information. He tossed two ball point pens to Delmer. My brother’s braces sparkled in thanks.

Meanwhile, Mom and we girls began at the 4-H building. We wandered through the displays of exhibits from young people all over the state. It was fun to see if we agreed with the judges’ choices for top ribbons.

The crowd was growing considerably as we entered the Horticulture Building. Hundreds of tables of flowers filled the area. We “oohed” and “aahhed,” taking in the glorious scents as well as the beauty. Organ music added to the aura. All at once, we came upon a wondrous sight. Mirrors! Rows and shelves and hangers displayed the loveliest bouquets in front of mirrors. We stared as the reflections lit the room.

The Women’s Building presented handmade items of every craft imaginable, doilies, quilts, beautiful embroidery. We found ourselves admiring AND wanting to create such beautiful things.

Suddenly, Mom looked at her watch. “We had better start back to the car. It’s nearly noon.” Tummies growled in agreement.

Dad and Delmer fell in just behind us outside the gate. Others were already enjoying their picnic. They smiled and waved as we walked by. At the car the whole family pitched in. As we sat on blankets and enjoyed Mom’s fried chicken, we reported and listened to accounts of the fair. Excitedly, we planned the rest of the day’s activities—from the all-you-could-drink-milk-for-a-dime at the Dairy Bar to the rodeo at the grandstand.

9:00 p.m. A continuous line of car lights followed us as we drove east out of Huron toward home. The kids in the back seat were quiet. Dad checked his rear-view mirror to see contented smiles. He stole a glance at Mom. “What do you think? Was it worth all that work?”

At that moment the little girl who sat between them leaned her head against her mother’s side and snored softly. Mom smiled. “I can’t wait ‘til next year!”

Want to read more of Kruempel’s writing? Her book, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her 5-book series, Promises to Keep, are available on All make great gifts for all ages. Watch for details of Kruempel’s soon-to-be-released book, Putting on the Big Boots, a compilation of the stories from the column of the same name. Contact DeAnn at


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