Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The fly population has exploded in Hermiston this past week.  It can mean only one thing, it is fair week in Umatilla County.  It's a big event in a little town.  There was a parade last Saturday that shut down all major roads including Hwy 395 for over an hour.  Our fairgrounds are located in the center of town, right next to the post office, police and fire departments and the high school.  Anyone trying to use any of these facilities is hard pressed to find parking within a half a mile.

For the Lions Club, the fair is our major fund raising activity.  For years the Lions have had a food booth that sells burgers, fries, corn dogs, and breakfast wraps.  You can recognize a Hermiston Lion by the grease burns; we all have them. 

Today there is a light drizzle and the temperature has dropped considerably.  We are used to working in the booth in 100 degree temperatures...we usually sell a lot of drinks.  We'll be more comfortable in the booth today, but our profits will probably be down as many people will wait for clear weather to come to the fair and those who do come won't be as thirsty.

The Lions built the food booth at the fairgrounds years and years ago.  We limp along with our original equipment, struggling to keep our grill cooking for another year.  This year we store huge chunks of ice in our commercial size refrigerator to help keep the temperature at safe levels.  We all were relieved when we passed the Health Department inspection.  We resist putting money into equipment for the booth because it reduces what we have available for community services.

Proceeds from our fair booth go directly into our club budget for community services.  I am the chair for the Hermiston Lions Sight and Hearing.  We provide assistance to low income residents with vision problems.  We help pay for eye exams and glasses and sight saving surgeries.  Several months ago we ran out of money.  The downturn in our economy has hit our rural area hard.  We've had a dramatic increase in the number of applications for assistance with eye glasses.  We now have a list of qualified people waiting for us to have funds to assist them in purchasing glasses.  Making money at the fair is even more important this year because of the number of people who are counting on us to help them.

Although toiling in the grease and heat of our booth at the fair is unpleasant, we all know that we are working for an important cause.  At some point during fair week just about everyone in town will make a visit to the fair.  It is a summer tradition to come to the fair and catch up with everyone that you haven't seen since the previous year.  It is common knowledge that any fried food consumed at the fair, and there is a wide selection to choose from, does not count in your cholesterol total for the week.

Fair gives us a glimpse of America in a simpler time...neighbors showing off the bounty from their gardens, children running wild among the displays and carnival rides, and service clubs raising money to support their projects.  Amid the heat and grease, life really is good.

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