Labor Day at the Fair
Labor day is the last day of the Oregon State Fair. Every year, my wife and I drive from St. Helens to Salem so that we can savor Oregon's fair of fairs. The Oregon State Fair sits on 185 acres of land and has been at its present site since around 1870. I have been there numerous times, and I didn't see where we would have any problems in finding a place to park.
As I approached Salem, I muttered to my wife: "I think that I will try a more direct route this time."
My wife looked at me and said nothing.
Normally I turn off on the Salem Highway (99E) and just follow the signs to the fair. This time I drove past 99E and turned on another road. I thought this was a good move, particularly since there was a sign on the road that said "To State Fair."
"Do you know where you are?" asked my wife.
I lied. "Sure I do, we're just taking a different route."
I exuded confidence, all the while being filled with doubt. I started to follow a number of cars into what appeared to be fair parking, when it suddenly occurred to me that I was on the wrong side of the fair. 185 acres is a large area, our tickets were waiting for us at the 'Will Call" window of the Jackman-Long building. It was hot and I really didn't want to spend a lot of time walking.
"I think I can find a closer place to park" I said as I made a quick U-Turn. I decided that I would circle the fair grounds. I was determined to find a great place to park. After about a half hour of frustration I ended up parking by a road at the far end of the Fairs pink lot.
"I don't' think we are all that close" chided my wife. "I only hope that we can find our car when we leave."
"No problem." We are by a driveway and a fence, and there are storage sheds on the other side of the road...and I will do the unthinkable. I will ask someone where the Jackman-Long building is."
I walked over and waved down a fair employee driving a motorized cart. He was very cheerful. "You are in luck. We have shuttle service. I'll radio for a shuttle to pick you right up. Just remember that you're in the pink lot. Otherwise you'll have to wait until Midnight, after everyone has gone, so that you can find your car."
Our shuttle arrived, and a very friendly lady drove us to the Jackman-Long building where our tickets were waiting for us.
My wife and I headed immediately for the Kiwanis Doernbecher Mustang Raffle booth. The "booth" consisted of the Mustang, a large drum to hold the ticket stubs, and a row of tables with people sitting selling tickets. A canopy covered the Mustang and the tables.
"Only five bucks to help the children at Doernbecher," shouted a man.
"All the money goes to Doernbecher," shouted another. "You can't lose, not when you help children…"
"Oh oh!" I said looking at my wife. "I left my Ticket stubs and money in my car. The car is in the pink lot. I have to go back and get them…."
My wife volunteered to walk back with me, but I assured her, that I had figured out where the car was and I would not have to wait until midnight to find it.
It was getting close to the time for the drawing. Shirley Clemens and her husband Bob make a great team. They were responsible for conducting the Mustang raffle and they work very well together. Bob handles the drawing, while Shirley gets to make the telephone calls and hand the keys to the lucky winner.
Every year, the Kiwanis Doernbecher Board makes arrangements with the hospital to have a young person, who is, or has been, a patient at Doernbecher, draw the winning ticket.
Shirley approached me and said "You wrote a story about our drawing last year. How about writing a story about the boy who will be drawing the winning ticket this year?"
"Sure," said I. "Show me the way. Introduce me."
Shirley introduced me to George Nolen Dehart. George was 14 years old. He had blond hair and wore a white ball cap and a white tee shirt. He looked like most any 14 year old. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with AML; Acute Myeloid Leukemia. His parents took him to Doernbecher where he was successfully treated and spent the next 10 years cancer free. Less than two years ago, George was given a check up and they discovered a reoccurrence of AML.
I asked George if it scared him.
"Sure," said George. "I was scared when they first told me that I had cancer again, but I wasn't scared when I went to Doernbecher. They were really great to me, and I knew that I was in really good hands. Everyone there was so nice, and they really know how to make a person feel at ease."
"Who's your Doctor?" I asked.
"Doctor Stork. I like her, she's brilliant."
I said: "She is in charge of the Cancer program for the hospital."
George smiled. "She also cured me. I still have to take maintenance medication, but I think that I'm now cancer free."
"Hey it's time to draw the winning ticket" said a crusty Bob Clemens.
All the final tickets were deposited. Duct tape was put over the drum opening to prevent any stubs from falling out, and then the drum was rotated.
The Duct tape was pealed off and George reached in to pull out the winning ticket.
Bob Clemens took the ticket from George and handed it to his wife Shirley.
Shirley took her cell out of her purse. "Hello" said Shirley is this M. Cemulini?
The person on the other end said: "That's my wife Margaret."
Shirley smiled and announced: "Congratulations. You can tell her that she just won the Kiwanis Doernbecher Mustang…"
Shirley then asked him where she bought their tickets. He was unsure, but seemed to think that they were purchased at the Columbia County Fair.
"Columbia County Fair?" said I. "Claudia and I are the only ones who sold tickets at the fair. She must have purchased the ticket from me!"
"Or me" chided my wife.
"Oh yeah, you" I looked sheepishly at my wife. "It really doesn't matter; the fact is that we sold the winning ticket. I just can't wait to tell Ray Williams from the Clatskanie club about it. He's always bragging about how many tickets he sells."
I left the fair that evening on cloud nine. It was a great evening; we even managed to find our car without waiting until midnight.
The next day I was on the telephone bragging to everyone about selling the winning ticket. Bragging, until I got a telephone call from Shirley Clemens.
"Bill," said Shirley. You didn't sell the winning raffle ticket. Margaret's husband was mistaken. They bought their ticket at Safeway from Ray Williams…"
"Oh Jeeze," I whined. "I'll be having lunch with Ray tomorrow. I guess this will be one more time when this Eagle will have to eat crow."
Labor day is the last day of the Oregon State fair. The Fair is a fun place to go, and Labor day is a wonderful time to be there. It was worth the drive and it was great being able to witness the drawing of the winning Mustang raffle ticket, even though I wasn't the one who sold it. Who knows, perhaps next year, the winning ticket will be the one that I sell.
HOME More of Bill's Essays and Stories
Bill loves letters, and you can write to him at email@example.com,