Tomorrow, my kids, my sister (who is driving here today!!!! EEEEKK!), and I will be at Cedar Point Amusement Park RIDING ROLLER COASTERS ALL DAY!
We love them. Up, down, sideways, upside down, and super fast.
I have always loved roller coasters, since my dad took me on very first one. Yup. My dad has influenced many parts of me from being a take-it-in-stride non-panicker, to loving horror, to being a little goofy, to enjoying camping and hiking, and to riding thrill rides.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I rode the little clickety-clackety coaster at the fair, but that’s where it started.
The Heart of Illinois Fair in Peoria, Illinois.
As I get ready to thrust my hands in the air and whoop in joy all day tomorrow, I can’t help but remember that long ago annual summer fun.
The Heart of Illinois Fair appeared every July at Expo Gardens. We’d pass that big lot on our way to church every Sunday and it was so exciting to watch the rides go up and see the plastic triangle flags wave in the breeze. Our noses loved the smell of fried foods and hot asphalt. Commercials would pop up on TV…I can still sing the jingle…come to the faiiiiiirrrrrrr, the Heart of Illinois, everything’s therererere…
The fair was so close to our house that we could hear people on the loud speaker and the music of the rides from our front yard. Every year we went as a family to wander around, to see the exhibits of people’s sewing, art, and photography. We checked out the vendor stalls with jewelry and one year bought my dad a belt buckle for his birthday. We loved the tractor pulls and, my favorite, the demolition derby. We saw a couple of shows at the grandstand. But mostly I loved walking around with my family. Dad would buy a humongous soda and we would all share, though my sisters and I kept an eye on each other to make sure no one got a longer sip out of that cup. I remember the clown that would hand out balloons twisted into fabulous shapes, the medicine man show, and the stalls selling invisible dogs (basically leashes with an empty collar permanently shaped to look like there was a dog in it) and foam pet lizards on wires so it looked like he was alive (I bought myself one of those one year, I loved him). I loved the smells of butterfly pork chops, elephant ears, and sweaty people. The sounds of laughter and screaming as people rode rides, the musical melody always playing in the background. So much to see, the twinkling lights, sunburned people, the dancing fountain, and spinning rides.
My dad was a member of the Peoria Camera Club and he always had at least one shift manning the photography exhibit. We got to go hang out with him. I loved looking at all the photos and seeing which ones won ribbons and voting for the one I wanted to win the people’s choice award. My dad always had at least one picture entered, and one year, with Dad’s help, I entered a couple. I was allowed to sit in the judging and watch…I won second place.
And one day during the fair, Mom would take us to ride the rides. There was always an arm-band day, where for one price we could ride all day long. And we did. And it was glorious fun. Mom, the non-rider, wandered around in the hot sun so we could ride. She pushed a stroller around, first carrying my little sister and later a jug of water and cups, so we could find her and have a drink when we needed.
We moved in 1989, so I haven’t been there since that final summer, but I googled it and it’s still there. Which makes me happy. So many things of childhood get swallowed by the past, leaving memories. Luckily people are still enjoying the fair in Peoria.
From that first little coaster, Dad took us on bigger ones…and bigger ones. The Matterhorn and Space Mountain in Disneyland, CA. The Corkscrew in Valley Fair in Minnesota. Space Mountain and Everest at Disney World, FL. The Screaming Eagle and Mr. Freeze in Six Flags. The Hulk and Dueling Dragons at Universal Studios. We (Mom, Dad, my two sisters and their husbands, and me and mine) went to Cedar Point for the first time about 16 years ago. We stopped on our way out to visit family in Massachusetts. My dad and I went back about 9 years ago. Two years ago, my dad went with me and my kids. This year my sister is joining the fun. She hasn’t been there since we went 16 years ago..oh, the new coasters she will get to ride!
Going to amusement parks is one of my favorite childhood memories. Some of the best times with my family were had in the hot sun, when we were sweaty and tired, but full of smiles and laughter. The Heart of Illinois Fair was the beginning.
And the adventure and fun continues.
So, tomorrow, if you want me here are a few pics of where you can find me.
Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. Roller Coaster lover heaven.
Tomorrow…think of me and smile.