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An eye-opening visit to the fair
jayfair pic
Visiting the fair as an observer offers a whole new experience. - photo by JAYDEEP BHATIA / The Journal

I am not a cowboy. I have never farmed a day in my life (unless helping my mom pull out weeds counts). I have never milked a cow. I’ve never lifted a bale of hay. I’ve never donned a cowboy hat, worn leather shoes or boasted a shiny belt buckle complete with a short sleeve plaid shirt.

I, in every respect of the word, am a city boy.

However, when I attended my first Stanislaus County Fair on Thursday night, amidst the screams of excited roller coaster thrill seekers and mooing of cows, a little part of me, just a little, became a little more country.

Now, I’m not saying I left the fair on top of horse singing the tunes of Garth Brooks. I did however; gain a new perspective on a community event that I subconsciously always had stereotypes about.

Prior to my Thursday night expedition into these unexplored grounds, I assumed that the fair was a place where rowdy cowboys went to start brawls with even rowdier cowboys. Much to my surprise, I found the exact opposite. What I found were thousands of smiling, glowing faces, the sweet of smell of hickory barbecue mixed in with hot cotton candy and this overwhelming and fulfilling sense of community and kinship. A kinship that’s a bit infectious.

I think it’s safe to say that I stick out. Growing up with a turban has always made me that much taller and that much more noticeable. Yet, as I gripped my camera and saw the fair through the lens of a photographer, I was able to remove myself from any preconceived notion of what people would think or expect of me walking around the fair.

I was purely an observer.

An observer who couldn't wipe the smile off his face after seeing a young boy get on his tippy toes to make the height requirement for a ride he was set on riding. An observer of the young man sitting front row at the Tower of Power concert cautiously inching towards a date as they both listened to the funky tunes of their grandparent’s generation. Note to young man: Excellent first date option.

And lastly, an observer that saw a man sitting in a wheelchair, holding two stuffed animals and just oozing in pride over his achievements.

You see, the fair is the absolute representation of blue collar America. There are no flashy suits, no designer purses and no metallic feel of materialism. It’s just people, enjoying a warm country California night with their families. They’re not worried about bills, or jobs, or that project that is due next week. Because when you’re watching your child’s eyes dance as they ride around the carousel, everything else seems meaningless.

So, to the organizers of the event, I’d like to thank you and apologize for looking at the fair with a blind eye.

You’ve made a fairgoer out of me.