Friday night was a perfect example of summer. At 9 P.M. it was 76 degrees, winds were calm, and the sky was mostly clear. It is the weekend of the Dane County Fair. Teenage couples should have been planning a few trips around the top of the Ferris Wheel, and delighted youngsters ready to show off a prized item in the crafts or animal barn to grandparents who surely would then see the wisdom of buying some cotton candy for a job well done.
But as I drove along Rimrock Road the lights of the rides were off, the cars in the massive parking area were mostly cleared out, there were no sounds of laughter and light-heartedness, and no carnival scents of corn dogs hung in the air.
It was truly disheartening to see what the lowest common denominators in our area achieved.
Last year at the fair—and on a Friday night–about 100 youth brawled in the parking lot that required deputies to step in and respond. It was so out-of-hand that Town of Madison police was called in for assistance. Multiple physical and verbal altercations started between a crowd of minors who gathered in the parking lot. By 9:30 P.M. deputies and fair security began to break up a large crowd of more than 50 people.
The outrageous behavior forced fair officials last year to move up its closing time for its last two nights and mandated minors be accompanied by adults.
That is where we still stand in 2022.
It is pathetic that those with no goals in life other than creating mayhem can throw one of the great traditional events of summer almost out of existence. There is so much revenue lost to vendors and those who work at the fairs. It truly hurt inside to see the dark quiet on a Friday night at the fairgrounds.
I grew up in rural Wisconsin where it was a real treat to walk the midway as a boy with the dazzling, flickering, and beckoning lights. Life was not always big and brassy, so when the fair arrived it was truly a big deal. You just always prayed for no rain that weekend! The Saturday night grandstand show would always feature some country artist. We would meet every year some extended family and it was an event all in its own way in the bleachers.
Corny? No. Just living life. And we did year after year.
When I became an uncle and my small nephews and nieces were not sure about the Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl, and some of the adults were not wanting to get light-headed, I was the one who made sure there were fair memories made for a lifetime.
So, yeah, it ticks me off to know that Madison and Dane County kids who would enjoy some of their own traditions and excitements at the fair as the sun sets and the glow of the midway takes over are denied that pleasure due to losers who had to brawl last year. And did so to such an extent the impact has lasted for a year.
The list of the lowest common denominators among us seems to grow each year. Add those who turned the county fair into a darkened parking lot at 9 P.M. on a grand summer night in Madison.