Past the “clang, clang, clang” of the flying chair ride and the squeals of delight from the kids’ roller coaster, all that could be heard in the Paul E. Smith Livestock Barn was the occasional soft mooing of the Simmental cattle and the hushed chatter of children in awe of the chance to pet a farm animal for the first time.
Such was the final day of the 71st Coosa Valley Fair Saturday as attendees and fair workers alike enjoyed the cooler temperatures and strong breezes after a week of record-breaking heat.
Bruce Van Meter, of Imm Inc. in Armuchee, sat quietly in his cowboy hat watching his 12 head of black Simmental cattle in the livestock barn as his youngest son Bruce, 4, stabbed at the hay scattered on the floor with a pint-sized pitchfork.
“Bruce will most likely end up being a cattleman, too, just like I followed in my father’s footsteps,” Van Meter said as little Bruce walked happily over to a family with several youngsters in tow. “He isn’t around other kids much, so he’s having fun with this youth exhibit.”
Van Meter said the fair was “really crowded” Friday even with temperatures in the mid-90s. He said barn visitors remained steady, regardless, and he has enjoyed sharing information about his cattle’s strong heritage that goes back several generations.
“I’ve been in this business for about 40 years,” he said, adding he has about 70 acres for the beef cattle, many of which are for seed stock purposes.
Along the barn fence behind Van Meter, 3-year-old Rosie Towe reached out to pet the nose of one of those cows as a calf feasted underneath.
“This is the first time we’ve been here this week,” said Heather Towe, a mother of four from Cave Spring. “The kids are excited to be here. The barn was our first stop, but we’re heading to the rides.”
The smells of sweet cotton candy mixed with barbecue and pizza filled the midway as carney Matt Hafford waited for his next customer at the “Shoot Out the Star” game that promised the biggest prizes of all — stuffed monkeys, dogs and caterpillars ranging from 4 feet to more than 12 feet.
Hafford, who has been working carnivals since he was a youngster growing up in Maine, said he was enjoying the cool breeze, but was still adjusting to Georgia’s heat and humidity.
“The coldest fair I’ve worked was in January in New York,” he said as a barker at a game next to him tried to entice those feeling lucky. “It was about 30 degrees, but people still came out.”
Just across the way from him, Joseph Harper, 2, and his sister, Lilly, 3, tried their hands at the “Let’s Go Fishing” game. They weren’t sure what to make of the groupings of plastic sharks held together with zip ties they pulled out of the water.
“It’s not as busy as we were expecting,” said their mom, Maranda Harper, a teacher at West Central Elementary School. “But this was the best day to come since it’s cooler. We got the kids the arm bands so they can ride as many rides as they want. They love the boats and the motorcycles.”
Tucked away in a quiet, air-conditioned corner of the Community Building, 12-year-old Tristen Wallace and her grandmother Elaine Wallace admired the 10 blue and red ribbons hanging from their pickled peppers, tomatoes, relish and okra.
“Tristen got all blue ribbons for her peppers,” Wallace, of Cedartown, said proudly of her granddaughter. “She’s very particular. One year she did it with the rounds stacked in a jar and that’s hard to do. She started helping me when she was just a tiny little thing sitting on the step ladder. Her older sisters used to do this, too, but now they’re more interested in boys so it’s up to the two of us to carry on this tradition.”
Stopping by the flower show were long-time Rome pals Tim Groves and Bill Darby. Darby described himself as Groves’ “escort,” making sure he doesn’t over-exert himself as he recovers from rotator cuff surgery.
“This is my first day out since the surgery,” Groves said, adding they were just stopping by on their way to the Georgia Tech game. “This is always sentimental to me because I always came to the fair as a kid. My favorite thing was the Himalaya ride, which is still here after all these years but I think it’s called something else. No rides for me today, though.”
And as Exchange Club of Rome’s Americanism Committee member Gil Espy showed the different iterations of the American flag to Nathan Stevens and his two children Nathan Stevens Jr., 12, and Elizabeth Stevens, 9, more families were finding spots in the parking lot below in anticipation of the thrills awaiting them before the gates closed for the season at midnight.