NUDGE: Writing to Capture History

Carthage Fairgrounds a long, long time ago. A postcard from my mother's collection.

I started a separate blog called “The Late, Great Carthage Fair” where I could write memoirs of my long history with what is now called Hamilton County Fair here in Cincinnati. I write about all kinds of thing on Nudged to Write, but I wanted a repository for Carthage Fair memories as well as actual history. Tomorrow my mother and I will make our annual visit to Hamilton County Fair at the Carthage Fairgrounds. Each year the fair seems thinner and paler; it’s like watching a dear old relative slowly waste away. You fear the day she’s gone forever, but you hate to see the misery prolonged.

I think my beloved fair is living on borrowed time. I started the new blog when I heard 4-H had made good on its threat to abandon the Hamilton County Fair. They opened their own fair in July in far western Hamilton County, where everything is white and clean. I flinch at the racial undertones to complaints about the location of Carthage Fairgrounds, but it’s true there’s crime in the area, and the industrialization clashes with popular concepts of a county fair as “rural.” The fairgrounds are historic, though, and it’s a shame various antique features were allowed to crumble away. Granted, the cost of upkeep was probably enormous; and the impact of having Cross-County Highway carve out the north end of the grounds couldn’t be helped.

I’d always thought one solution to the fair’s problems would be to stage it as an old-fashioned, early 20th century fair, kind of an historical re-enactment. That would have taken funding, too, and lots of volunteer help, not to mention fresh blood and creative thinking.

It’s become painful to attend the fair, but we’ll continue to do it until the fair expires. Mom hasn’t missed a fair in 78 years, and I haven’t missed one in 57. Now, though, we do it out of duty, not pleasure. We also do it as tribute to years gone by and family tradition. Any year now, we suspect, will be our last.

That’s why I started the blog. I want there to be a record of what the fair used to be like. I’d happily share any memories readers submitted to me. I’m linking to historical information I’ve found on the Internet and posting scans of photos from old premium lists. And I’m writing my fair memoirs, from entering needlework to impressions of Grandpa’s barn to the acts that used to perform between harness races, which ended with the 1969 fair. I guess I like to think I can rebuild the fair in words before it’s demolished in reality.

PROMPT: Write to capture your own history. It doesn’t have to be anything major. It doesn’t even have to be of widespread interest. Describe the scene from your kitchen window. That’s plenty. Things do change, sometimes so slowly you’re not even aware of the transition. Capture some aspect of your world as it is today. We live in a world where strip malls built in the last 20 years are being torn down and replaced with some other ephemeral edifice, where decent houses are being demolished so McMansions can be erected in their place. If you have a good memory of something or someplace that has vanished, get the details down on paper. Whether you believe it or not, someday those descriptions are going to matter to someone. Give the future your gift of captured history.

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