A One Armed Juggler and Other Cool Stuff

I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania. It was the Christmas tree capital of the world. Our county fair had an Evergreen Queen pageant and lots of other fun events. I took my dog, Tippy Toes to the animal walk and entered my pansies in the 4-H judging. But I left all that behind when I moved to Florida at the age of 12 and county fairs of that standard were left behind in my childhood.

Then, 40 plus years later I found myself in the Midwest in August where county fairs meet the best of 4-H exhibits and farmers meet up with the best John Deeres in the heartland and boy o boy, you’ve got yourself a real county fair.

We got to the fairgrounds just in time to see a mob of people gathered around an arena of sorts. “What is going on here”? I asked someone near me. “It’s the monkey races.” they said. We were in for a treat as we watched two small monkeys racing on the backs of dogs!

I’m sorry that we missed the yodling contest and Dale Jones, the one armed juggler. But we certainly enjoyed the sights, sounds and…… well okay, not the smells but we enjoyed MOST of the Boone County fair in Belvidere, Illinois.  It is the only Grange Fair in Illinois.

I suppose every county fair has some legendary Bluegrass singers, kid fiddlers and a Tractor and Truck pull and wood carving exhibits. The Boone County fair however, had some other events that were new to us. We were sorry that we missed the Watermelon eating-Seed spitting contest, the Bubble Gum blowing contest and the Twinkie Eating-Pepsi drinking contest. Rest assured that we are marking our calendars though for NEXT summer. If we come back to the Midwest, we won’t miss this wholesome fun!

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A town, a lake, another state….

When we talk to the locals about places we don’t want to miss while visiting the Midwest, the one destination that continually comes up in conversation is Lake Geneva.  The town within walking distance bears the same name. The first time we heard about it was in relation to snow mobile races. We didn’t make it for that but thankfully the call to return to our home in Florida was delayed long enough for us to enjoy some of the summer offerings that the region has to offer.

We were not prepared however, for the beauty and ambiance of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Oh my, the sights, the unique culture and the clear water of the lake were a treat like none other that we had experienced here. Being from central Florida, we are accustomed to springs and clean rivers. We are happy to say that we found a whole lake that looked fresh and unpolluted in Wisconsin.

Our favorite aspect of Lake Geneva was being able to walk around the shoreline of the lake, literally walking on the private lawns and lake fronts of residents who not only PERMIT it but actually encourage the public usage in order to enjoy the beauty the lake shore provides. There are walkways and decorative fences and fountains and stepping stones….a virtual smorgasbord of tempting sights for the eyes. Thank you Lake Geneva residents for allowing us the privilege of seeing your beautiful estates from the back and your breathtaking scenery from the lake shore. May we tourists never abuse the privilege by vandalizing or littering your property that you so graciously offer. We can’t wait to go back!

Sights you won’t see in Florida

Having been a southern girl for most of my life, there are some things that I haven’t seen much. I also have not traveled the country extensively as many of my peers have done. So I find certain sights quite noteworthy or at least worthy of a second glance. Chipmunks are one little creature that do not naturally inhabit the state of Florida.(okay they are in the panhandle but that’s really southern Alabama) So they are a treat to the eyes as they quickly scurry about. I was happy to find one open to being photographed at the Anderson Japanese Gardens. They are accustomed to having folks around their trees I guess.

Chipmunks,always adorable, but more so when you don’t see them often.

Another would be that fire hydrants here are designated with a flag. Now if I had only been in Illinois in the summer,  I would be completely befuddled as to why the firemen wouldn’t be able to see a big yellow fire hydrant on the side of the road and would need a flag to find it. I know that old people tape a flower to their antenna occasionally to find their car in the parking lot but firemen on duty, hunting down a fire hydrant? Ah but since I was here in the winter months and snow season and saw many mishaps and misjudging as to where streets and driveways had gone, I know that flag is to indicate the presence of a fire hydrant.

“Here lies a fire hydrant.”

Another picture that you won’t find in a Florida photo is one of lilacs. The fragrance of lilacs brings back memories of being a little girl in western Pennsylvania. We had them in our yard and when we would play Red Rover and run to the end of the yard, we would run right into the fragrant, colorful lilac bushes. I don’t recall seeing them blooming since then until my extended visit to Illinois. They are in fact, so prevalent here that they trim them up and toss away the blooms with little regard for their value, to us, at least.
Now, let’s talk about food. The Midwest isn’t called America’s Breadbasket for nothing. The opportunities for eating scrumptious food are endless. The downside is that Rockford has been given the dubious title of 4th most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. But let’s not talk about that right now. I know that we have bakeries and eateries in the south that conjure up mouth watering memories but none that compare to what I have seen here. (except for my LaMarrs Donuts in Oxford, Alabama!) Bread, rolls, danish, Swedish pancakes and let’s not forget world famous Chicago Pizza! I’ve used tremendous restraint in limiting my indulgences but I had to have a photo to take home with me. Yes, I DO love my carbs!  So thank you Midwest for making my sweet roll dreams come true.