By Mary Ann Metzger
Fields of goldenrod sway ever so gently with the late summer breeze, and the honey bees hum as they become more aggressive. It happens every year after the fair; a sign that the season is about to change.
It is not that I mind; I love the months of fall when the leaves turn to a wardrobe of golden and orange hues leading up to America’s great holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s just something about the end of the Erie County Fair that is so climactic.
My fair days have been going on for many decades and to this day I usually purchase one of the magical items that will change my life. I patiently awaited the effects of the special bar of soap. Truth of the matter, I bought two bars just so I wouldn’t run out. Although my magic potion failed, and I have many items purchased from previous years that are stored after the excitement wears off, I still get excited to see what is new. Last year when I purchased my pillow, a miracle sleep aid, visions of sugar plums ran through my head.
There are some bits of fair magic in my memory bank that are priceless. I grew up in the rural farming community of Strykersville, and I always thought I was more fortunate than my friends as my dad, the late Harold Schiltz, was a businessman. Every year he took his displays to the fair; I recall those orange case tractors and farm machinery in the 1940s, and later Homelite chainsaws and power lawn mowers. In 1956 he presented his new feed business, a mobile unit on wheels. Mom, my siblings Jane, John and Pete, and I spent several days with him at the fair as he drummed up business; spectacular memories were made.
When we attended the fair as children there was no petty cash, and Mom packed food for the whole day; we children never felt deprived and how we loved this event. Sometimes we took friends along, but never venturing too far from Dad’s displays. It never dawned on me what I missed at the fair as a child until in later years I was introduced to the midway, expensive foods, shows and games.
On one particular year, Mom must have saved up a bit of pocket change, and she ventured out and played Bingo. She had a bit of luck and won a set of dishes. Mom never had a set of fine china, money was scarce, but now she had a set that she could call her good dishes. For many years she used these and although we never had a formal dining room, she spread a lace tablecloth out on my great grandmother’s hand-me-down oak table, and we polished her set of silver-plated silverware to entertain guests. We were taught how to set the table properly for company.
Years later, my brother, Peter, was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War era and he sent Mom a set of fine china. Mom treasured these but had a hard time letting go of the fair dishes. Never had I felt deprived as the magic was in the company and pride we had in getting out our best for friends.
I have always loved the Erie County Fair and treasure the memories. Last year’s purchase of magic pillows has provided me with many good nights' sleep. My hope now is that the face cream with honey I purchased this year will provide results. Even though it’s not made with Father Ryszard’s Holy Honey, whose side job of beekeeping has kept the people in the Buffalo Diocese buzzing, I choose to keep the faith in its benefits.
The fields of goldenrod will sway, and the wild sumac bushes will turn a brilliant red, the bees will get restless and fall’s splendor will arrive; that is what happens this time of year.
Mary Ann Metzger, of South Wales, treasures her memories of the Erie County Fair.