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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Memories and marigolds

Hollie Grimaldi Flores

It’s the second week in August in Nevada County, which means it is time for the Nevada County Fair. I’ve already been out to the fairgrounds to look around and am impressed by the work that has been done to prepare for the onslaught of visitors, so soon after music festivals and fire fighters had taken up residence for many of the previous weeks. How do they manage? And would someone explain the miraculous timing of the marigolds? I was there a week ago and saw nothing but green, not a blossom to be found! I didn’t want to worry the new Fair Executive Officer so did not say anything, but inside my brain was screeching, “Someone should have told him, the marigolds need to be flowering asap.”

I should not have worried. The 2022 Nevada County Fair, nestled against the tall pines, in one of the most beautiful settings anywhere, is underway. Gold Lane is lined with bright orange blooms, and all is well in our little piece of Utopia.

It’s difficult for me to pick my favorite thing to do as a fairgoer. I love the exhibits, the animals, the rides, and of course, Treat Street, and I love people watching. Sit still long enough and you will understand what I mean. With an estimated 10,000 patrons making their way through the grounds over the five-day run, there is bound to be just about every incarnation of human walking by at any given moment.

There really is someone for everyone.

After a decade of working at the popular KNCO Gazebo, more hours than I can tally volunteering for various nonprofits, and year after year of time spent there with my children, friends and spouse, fair memories are plentiful.

My daughter loved to get her caricature drawn from the old cartoonist who had his booth in the same area for at least a decade. He’s gone now, but I ran across a few of the illustrations while cleaning out a closet recently and smiled at the oversized head on a tiny body drawn in sharpie.

We would almost always take a turn in the old-fashioned photo booth, spinning the seat up or down, and pulling back the curtain, several of us jumping in and out to get various combinations together. I have saved many of the strips of black and white photos. One is hanging on a mirror in my bedroom. Priceless mementos, stored in memory books and tucked away for safekeeping.

We always make a point to visit the livestock, marveling at the different breeds of rabbit or hen and would be delighted when we would come upon a sow with her babies, born just in time to be on display, literally squealing with delight as we watched them suckle on their Mama.

I often share with others the year my daughter and I went on the Zipper. She was just tall enough to be eligible for the ride but a bit too small to stay secure in the cage. We screamed as we twirled around — her from sheer fright and me from the thrill of the ride. We laughed and laughed. OK, I laughed. She was hysterical, bouncing and sliding around the cage as it climbed and rolled and flipped around, but no worse for wear once our feet were back on the ground.

During one of our earliest visits, about 25 years ago, I took my two children as a single parent and lost the eldest who was probably 6 or 7. A bit distraught, I found my way to Guest Services and on the brink of tears, described my offspring to a security guard, explaining they had not shown up at our designated meeting spot at the designated time. “Don’t worry, miss,” he said. “We have never lost a child at the Nevada County Fair.” He helped keep me calm and within minutes, my child turned up, explaining the line for a ride took a little longer than expected causing the delay. I may have overreacted. Still, I will never forget the calm reassurance offered by the staffer. I do believe it is still true that to this day, “we have never lost a child at the Nevada County Fair.”

Now that my own children are grown, and I am a bit removed from the paradox of the stress and joy that comes with days spent with them at the fair, I find myself quietly observing the interactions between other parents and their children. There are lessons to be learned, fun to be had, money to be spent and food to be consumed. It’s endless entertainment and it’s exhausting. I remember and am grateful to the passing of time that has taken us from waiting in line for the dragon rollercoaster to waiting in line at the Load’n Chute. Some things are worth waiting for!

I especially love watching the joy of grandparents with their grandchildren at the fair. Grandparents tend to be indulgent, with a calm and patient hand. They are the buyers of goods from various vendors; the ones holding a seat at the Arena events, and often offering respite to parent and child alike. Fair time is fun time when Grandma or Grandpa are in town.

Someday, I hope to be there with a grandchild of my own, saying “yes” and “of course” to every request. We will delight at the hens, scream on the rides, get our pictures taken and wait impatiently for the wet strip to pop out of the machine. We’ll put a quarter in the “footsie wootsie” and rest our tired feet. I will fill the youngster up on caramel corn and funnel cakes, soft serve swirl and cotton candy, and turn good money into ping pong balls until we come home with a treasure we’ll name “Mari-goldfish.”

And then I will give them back to their mom and dad…the past and the future coming together the second week in August at the most beautiful fairgrounds in the world.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at http://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com

Hollie Grimaldi Flores


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