As the Wyoming State Fair begins this week in Douglas, I’m planning my schedule to spend a couple of evenings there. I can’t resist Dad’s and Mal’s amazing fair cuisine at Jackalope Catering. Then we will mosey to the exhibit halls where I will be relishing the creativity of 4-H youth and open class contestants too. I even entered three items myself.
I invite you to join me, as I share my reminiscences from the 100th Wyoming State Fair as I recorded them in 2013. Today I share the 1st installment, with more to come this week. Here you go!
Meanderings on the 100th Wyoming State Fair – Part I
The last umber light of an August evening melted into the North Platte River as the sky’s darkening shades of blue revealed an array of twinkling stars in the west. My hillside seat on the Wyoming Pioneer Museum’s concrete retaining wall was a quiet roost above the grander hubbub of the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas. Time stood still and even reversed as I enjoyed a panoramic view of bright blinking carnival lights and dusty rodeo grounds. Echoes of an announcer mingled with music from the Cowboy Hat Mercantile and the delightful clopping steps of horses carrying their Royal Canadian Mounties. A blacksmith’s ancient song of the hammer and anvil rang through the air and chattering people passed in families and groups of young friends, not realizing they were making memories of a lifetime right there, that night. I knew because I had made decades of memories myself, in that place where the earthy odors of livestock, hay, and wool, mix with aromas of kettle corn, smoked ribs, and other tantalizing fair food.
Our trip to the 100th Wyoming State Fair was more than a perfectly beautiful summer evening. We left our jobs and headed forty-five miles east for a night of nostalgia, cabbage rolls, curly fries, interesting exhibits, dusty boots, prize animals, carnival lights, and music from various venues. Familiar friends from present and past greeted us on the midway. All of the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells were just as I had remembered, just what I needed to bring another summer to an end.
Our first stop was my dad’s infamous Jackalope Catering. From the dusty parking lot, we saw welcoming curls of smoke rising from the chimney of his big black smoker where a fresh batch of ribs was cooking. That very smoker was one of my husband’s earliest metal fabrications decades ago. We didn’t know then, that it was the beginning of our family fabrication business, and Dad’s longstanding business for too, now twenty-eight years old. A business where some of our children’s most special memories would be made, helping Grampa Duane at State Fair.
Dad’s familiar yellow and white striped tent at the corner of the food court is where our family meets. Lawn chairs clump around boxes of corn on the cob where our kiddos learned their first food preparation task, shucking corn in hot summer sun while sipping cold drinks.
Sometimes Grampa would treat them to Dippin Dots when they had filled a few coolers with corn. A hard day’s work might even bring the reward of carnival rides or a round on the mechanical bull. The kids couldn’t wait to move up front from shucking to don the bright Jackalope Catering t-shirts and green aprons. First they had to prove to Grampa that they could count change. It was something to be taking orders and pouring drinks. Something they still enjoy as adults now.
Deciding what to eat at Jackalope Catering is always a big decision for me. In fact, some years I’ve returned several nights just to enjoy all of my favorites. There are tender smoked ribs, cabbage rolls, lamb dinner, or the world’s best cheeseburgers, smothered in grilled onions on yummy toasted buns. I admit that I always succumb to my craving for a heaping plate of curly fries from the nice Arkansas people at Sugar’s Lemonade and more across the way. That golden heap of goodness is big enough to be shared by the whole family, if not greasy enough for an instant heart-attack.
Ok, That’s all for now from me folks. Do you have State Fair memories? Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Part II