First, I was on vacation. Now, I’m feeling sick.

Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t somehow muster up the (fleeting) energy to address the fact that at 4 p.m. today, The Great Frederick Fair kicks off at the Frederick Fairgrounds. Not only is it one of the city’s premier events each year, but it’s also the only place on Earth that you can find the single best root beer you could ever taste.

That in mind — and despite playing hurt — I thought I’d compile a list of the 10 things I’m looking forward to the most when it comes to this year’s event. Because as Grandma would often remind me, there are times that the best medicine is a series of fever dreams starring pit beef, tractor pulls and a tilt-a-whirl. Let’s go.

10. The smells. No, honestly. As long as you stay away from the 4-H tents, there is a specific aroma to every fair a person can attend. It’s a weird mixture of fried onions, cotton candy, sweat and cologne that is as signature as the fairgrounds itself. You could be blind and still know exactly where you are. This is essential to what makes The Great Frederick Fair so memorable.

9. The Temptations! Notice the exclamation point, which is used to convey my excitement. I had the true honor of speaking with Otis Williams, the last living original member of the group, some years ago when they came to the Weinberg Center. “I have been so blessed and fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living,” he told me. “I’m just going to keep riding this horse for as long as I can. Someday, I’ll get off, but I have no plans on getting off soon.” Amen to that. And amen to that horse making another stop in Frederick.

8. Root beer. You know what I’m talking about. That cute, tiny root beer stand that still sells the stuff for something like 50 cents a cup. It’s the creamiest, tastiest root beer one could ever hope to find. If it’s not back this year, a riot might ensue.

7. The thrill of victory. You know what goes unnoticed too often with The Great Frederick Fair? The number of competitions that are held each day. If I can somehow crawl out of bed today, my task for this very paper is to cover the 4-H royalty contest at 7:30 p.m. These things seemingly happen on the hour every hour at the fair — a competition, a ribbon and a whole bunch of smiles. And what’s so wrong with that?

6. Ferris wheel lights. No matter where you are within a 10-mile radius, the sight of the fair’s Ferris wheel lit up at night is a sight to behold. It’s equally romantic and terrifying (come on, man; imagine being stuck at the top!). It’s the true sign that Fair Week is here.

5. The Unity Campaign. Yeah, I said it. Even the most cynical among us can get on board with the great things the fundraising drive accomplishes each year. Rather than me ramble about it, though, visit to learn more about how you can contribute.

4. Funnel cakes. Sure, I understand that it’s hip to deep-fry everything from Oreos to Sour Patch Kids to paper plates, but how about we give some props to the tried and true, forever-original sweetness attraction called the funnel cake. You can’t get them anywhere outside of a fair or a carnival, so why not take advantage of this classic delicacy while you can? Extra powdered sugar, please.

3. The games. Much like funnel cakes, you’d be hard- pressed to find a place

other than a carnival or fair that hosts things like “Throw a pingpong ball into a fishbowl” or “Whip a baseball at bottles as hard as you can” or “Shoot a squirt gun at things.” Part of the fair’s charm is to look at that 8-foot-tall teddy bear, know you’ll never win it ... and then blow 50 bucks in an attempt to take it home. The only thing more fair-like is a pound of curly fries and 18 packets of ketchup.

2. The Pig Hole. I’m pretty sure they still hate me because of something I wrote five years ago, but the truth is this barbecue stand’s setup is perhaps the most impressive food thing at the fair. The stacks of wood. The smokers. The smells. The meat. The name. If you head between the gates and miss The Pig Hole, you are missing out on one of the fair’s most recognizable visual elements.

1. Sept. 21. That’s the day the fair ends this year, which, of course, is sad for all of the fairgoers out there. But — and I stress the but — there is a silver lining: Only two days after the fair closes, autumn commences. And a new season means new temperatures, right … right?! So, while we can all hope that the heat breaks by then, I’m dreaming of kicking this flu by the time the seasons change. So bring on the fair, friends, and go enjoy the things on which I will inevitably miss out.

Follow Colin McGuire on Twitter: @colinpadraic.

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