10 best days of summer
by Sarah Harmon
“Lions and Tigers and Camels, Oh My!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for the greatest, or at least the biggest, free fair on earth! By the middle of July, the novelty of summer vacation has worn thin, and most parents have reached a point where they’re ready to scream if they have to hear “I’m bored” one more time. The Ionia County Free Fair is the perfect solution for moms and kids alike. With no entrance fee, you can hardly afford not to spend a day or more there. It’s a complete sensory experience from the moment you step through the gates. Nothing quite says summer like the scent of deep fried cheesecake and elephant ears accompanied by the screams of delighted children spinning high in the sky on rides.
Of course, if you’re used to the only animals at the county fair being livestock,you’reboundto be disappointed. In addition totheusual4H barns filled with goats, cows, rabbits, and chicks barely hatched from their eggs, Ionia County has multiple free daily performances of Circus Pages. A rare white lion races around the caged ring, performing tricks with two white tigers and two other lions. Once they’re safely removed to several smaller cages,theringis transformed into a magical scene with girls dancing high above the crowd, suspended only by their tenuous hold on a rope and metal hoop. Other performances include a group of trained camels, a woman who does a stunning routine on the aerial silks, and some impressive acrobatics on a trampoline. The show finishes with a couple of elephants, surprisingly agile for their size, that are available for rides afterward.
A favorite of mine was the barn filled with baking, canning, sewing, knitting, and crochet projects of all kinds. For creative quilters, they sell $10 kits every year to be turned into 14 inch quilt blocks. Your only limitations are the materials in the kit, the theme, and your imagination. The completed squares are turned into a full quilt to be raffled off the following year.
For those feeling nostalgic for days gone by, there is a mini museum full of antiques, as well as a building filled with classic cars. When you do stop in to check out the Corvettes, the irresistible odor of roasted almonds beckons you next door to the Meijer Marketplace. The combination flea market and community expo has something for everyone, from homemade ice cream to fashionable accessories. There are special events happening daily throughout the fair that include concerts, tractor pulls, and kids’ activities, so even if you bring them more than once, this is one week you will definitely not hear “I’m bored.”
For more fair information go to http://www.ioniafreefair.com
Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sarah Harmon, photo by Emma Palova