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I’m a cheap date and other lies we tell ourselves

Holly Spangler Nathan, Jenna and Caroline Spangler
ALL SMILES: Any week at the county fair is a good week.
Showing livestock at the county fair eliminates the whole “cheap date” mantra.

The heat bore down as my husband and I walked through the county fairgrounds last week, taking a swing past the 4-H food stand on our way back to the barn. We’d showed heifers that day, in 90-some degrees without a whisper of a breeze.

“You guys look like you’re on a date!” a friend at the grill hollered over, his eyesight clearly affected by the heat.

We made a crack about the pork chops looking mighty good and how that could be our date night dinner at the county fair.

“Hey, I’m a cheap date!” I said, laughing, and then, “Wait — am I?!”

Because let’s start totaling up this county fair date, beyond the butterflied pork chop:

Food for teenagers.
Clothes for teenagers.
Livestock. (should be all caps)
Show supplies.
Grandstand admissions.
Random cash for teenagers.

This fair thing ain’t cheap, y’all. And neither is the “date.” But like our show friends who like to laugh and say, “we’re making memories” every time something goes sideways, we were, in fact, making memories. It’s kids piled up around the picnic table in the stalls, playing cards. Sweaty kids in chairs in a friend’s stalls. Dads and moms in the vintage showmanship contest. Kids making bets about who’d win the next day. Banners you didn’t expect. People you don’t get to see very often.

Part of the county fair’s allure is that it only happens once a year (unless you skip a year for a pandemic, which is even worse). So all those annual traditions bank up, and you pack a whole lot of visiting and fun and exhaustion into a few days that can barely contain that kind of excitement.

Turns out, I’m not a cheap date. But dang if we didn’t have fun.

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