State Fair Syndrome

Ashley Johnson

As a small child, my parents and I made an annual pilgrimage to the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, Kentucky. For my parents, the primary objective of the trip was to attend the World Championship Horse Show in Freedom Hall. My major enjoyment as a young child was the midway and the fair rides; however, this changed as I grew older.

My perception of the Kentucky State Fair was one filled with amazement and adventure. The loud music of the rides and the familiar, huge crowds overwhelmed me with excitement. Unfortunately, I was forcibly taken, by my parents, to watch the World Championship Horse Show in Freedom Hall. At such a young age, I was not interested in seeing the next world champion horse make the show of his or her life. In my mind, the horse show was a waste of good ferris-wheel time. My parents usually set aside an afternoon in which they, with long-suffering faces, would indulge me in my fair frenzy. For these few hours, we waded into the jostling crowds, surrounded by the screams of thrill-seekers, the cacophony of bells and whistles, and the powerful smells of fair cuisine. To me, these were the best sights and sounds on earth.

If anyone had told me that I would one day regard this sensory experience with the same disdain as my parents, I would not have believed it. However, as I grew older, my priorities at the Kentucky State Fair changed. The very things that sent me into a transport of delight began to irritate and annoy me. As I grew older, I developed a desire to show horses at the top level of competition. Showing at the Kentucky State Fair World Championship Horse Show became my ultimate goal.

With the change in my focus came a change in my attitude toward the Kentucky State Fair. The once-exciting fair crowds became an obstacle for me to overcome as I made my way to Freedom Hall with my horse. The hustle and bustle of these crowds as they passed through the barn area frightened the horses. Many of these people would also make ignorant and obnoxious comments about some of America’s most elegant horses. The greasy fair food that I had loved as a child now brought on waves of nausea and a harsh case of heartburn. Freedom Hall, where I had sat squirming in agony as a child, was now my Mecca. Instead of being a waste of precious fair time to me, the horse show became my special haven filled with wonderful world champion horses.

Along with age came a changed perception of the Kentucky State Fair. The things that had thrilled me as a tiny tyke became torturing and annoying to me as a young adult. These differing views of the same place reflect the mental maturity that comes with growing up.

"State Fair Syndrome" was written for Ms. Christy Shannon’s ENGL 1101 class during Fall 2001semester by Ashley Johnson, then a freshman majoring in Psychology. Johnson is a member of the Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, the Spanish Club, and the recipient of the American Saddlebreed Foundation Scholarship.