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Old Home daze

This week we went to one of our favorite summer festivals -- Old Home Days. It's held in the small and otherwise quaint Island Park in the village of Williamsville. For a few days in July, Island Park is taken over by rides, games, food vendors and a variety of entertainment.

I choose to kick off our annual pilgrimage with the Parking Rodeo, an event of my own making. I insist that we circle the always-full parking lot right next to Island Park, and I creep along at 1 mile an hour until I see someone head toward a car. Then, I swoop in like a vulture and grab the prime spot. No parking down the street and taking the trolley for the Connors family! It’s a bit Griswoldian, but this ritual puts me in the mood for the amusements to come.

Amusements -- it seems like we should update this word. Are rides really that amusing to people living in 2007?

We haven't missed Old Home Days for 13 years, since our first visit when Maddie was 2. It's an approachable and contained festival -- small and on an island -- so it's easy for kids to run free and still be nearby. There's a great section of kiddie rides, and for amusement history buffs, this concept of having a dedicated kiddieland was pioneered in Buffalo by The Alan Herschell Company.

It was with some sadness that I watched our son Greg be turned away from his beloved Castlemania when his head towered over the height yardstick. I suggested he go back and duck a bit, he wisely ignored this advice.

One of the appealing things about Old Home Days is that it never changes. It's the same rides in the same places, the same food, etc. OK, maybe there are a few subtle changes. Ramblin' Lou is no longer a featured entertainer. Instead there’s the Mark Stanley Band. I miss Ramblin’ Lou’s Hee Haw-style jokes, such as “When I die, I want to be buried in the Wal-Mart parking lot -- then my family will visit me at least two times a week.” These jokes were a nice pairing with the fried dough.

After an afternoonful of being tossed around on rides and stuffing ourselves with ever-so-good but bad-for-you food, we stumbled in a daze toward our car, relieved that my parking fetish allowed our walk to be so short.

Now that Old Home Days has wound down, we look ahead to the flurry of festivals and fetes that await us the rest of the summer.


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