The big day is coming to Ellsworth. A church is sponsoring a community fair for the entire town. They do this once a year and everyone looks forward to the event. Parents, kids, and the elderly flock in droves for the potluck food and various games and amusements. A bake sale is a featured treat and the goods are always phenomenal. The best cooks in town donate their specialties. A few restaurants throw pastry chef yummies for people to buy and take home. The fair raises significant funds for its sponsored charities, most of which involve the needs of children. You can see the hustle and bustle from a block away as volunteer erect booths and set up tables and chairs. Lunch is ready when the hotdogs are grilled and the roast chicken comes alive on its spit.
Participants come walking for blocks to join in the communal fun. Some wear hats to protect themselves from the sun. In anticipation of a bright day, umbrellas populate the church parking for needed shade. Kids run to the inflated bouncy houses trying to choose between a castle and a western fort. A pony ride is available after they get their fill. There are many happy, smiling faces. Parents stand by surveying the scene, guarding their offspring with eagle eyes. They smell the food and are ready to eat. As usual, the tots want popcorn first. A few lucky ones are allowed to have cotton candy. Would you deny your child this wonderful fair treat?
Everyone wants to take home a prize and there are ample opportunities. You can throw baseballs at a clown face with a big hole for a mouth. You can play strongman and arm wrestle a formidable opponent. Before looking at the various crafts such as wood art, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and blown glass, many kids are taken to the gold panning “creek.” An outdoor kiddie pool is filled with water into which are thrown gold-painted stones (to look like nuggets of course). Each child is given a gold sluice – if you haven’t seen one before, they look like this: https://www.findingafortune.net/best-gold-panning-kits-and-gold-sluice-reviews/. The aim is for them to try their hand at finding the precious metal. As he or she approaches the pool, a floppy hat is placed on the little head. A church photographer takes a photo of the would-be prospector. Several kids are operating their sluices to see who gets the most nuggets and wins. It is getting competitive! The sluice separates the rocks so they can be promptly retrieved and counted. It is a hoot.
I remember as a child going to Knott’s Berry Farm in southern California. Panning for gold was a big event, almost as big as pie festival. They had a realistic looking river surrounded by climbing rocks interspersed with a small path. Each child had a choice of a pan or a gold sluice. The gold looked so real, perhaps because it was fool’s gold or shiny mica. There was dirt at the bottom of the river so the pan or sluice had to do some work separating the “gold.” I loved that the church fair tried to duplicate this experience.