Never Too Hot for the Arlington County Fair

Never Too Hot for the Arlington County Fair

From rides to butterflies.

The fairground is spread out below before the riders at the top of the Ferris wheel on Friday, Aug. 16 at the Arlington County Fair.

The fairground is spread out below before the riders at the top of the Ferris wheel on Friday, Aug. 16 at the Arlington County Fair. Photo by Shirley Ruhe.


A monarch perches on a sponge soaked in sugar water on a stick that Annie Ruhe is holding.


Ten-year-old Nairoby Laguna sports a face full of daisies at the face-painting booth at the Arlington County Fair.


Sausages, corn dogs, fried Oreos — something for everyone at the Arlington County Fair.

Large yellow school buses stop in front of Thomas Jefferson Community Center to discharge fairgoers traveling from centrally located shuttle stops on Friday, Aug. 16.

Where to go first? The exhibits open at 4 p.m. on Friday, but food smells are wafting around the building, and the rides are twirling in the distance.

In a few minutes you know it is hot. Several people sit on the bleachers under a tree to escape the sweltering temperatures. Mothers stop in a spot of shade cast by a "toss your dart stand" while tiny arms tug on their arms pointing to the next ride.

Blue raspberry and watermelon smoothies are juggled with fistfuls of tickets — $1 a ticket or 24 tickets for $20 with most rides taking 4-6 tickets. A real bargain but gone in a minute. Youngsters press their bodies against the measure on the wall, standing on tiptoes, trying to meet the 48" requirement to go on a ride without an adult.

The face-painting booth is located right inside a gate to the rides. It's 2 p.m. when the children's activities have just opened so lines are short. "What would you like?" Delina Ogbe, from Eritrea, asks her first customer. "Well, that design is probably too hard," she replies. "This is my first day." The customer settles on a rainbow and Yuoisa Salen, also working at the booth, provides the extra flowers.

The moon bounce sits just a few feet away but without too many customers. "We had to close the slide today. It's too hot. The plastic could burn."

The next attraction was the small tent advertising "feed a butterfly." John Lurie says he travels the United States with his Butterfly Encounter exhibits. He just came from Colorado and will be headed to Fredonia, Kansas next. Lurie has 100 monarch butterflies in his specially designed tent. "Look," he says to Julia Kienan, "you have a male. He has two black spots on the tail." A little girl pipes up from the corner, "What is a male?"

"It's a boy," Lurie replies.

"Oh yeah, now I remember," the girl says.

A monarch flies to her hand and perches on a sponge soaked in sugar water on a stick. Her eyes open wide. "Look I can touch the butterfly."

Rides are spinning, twirling, bouncing. Squeals ring out as an elevator cage suddenly plunges back to the ground. The Ferris wheel rotates high above the fairgrounds giving a view of the world that spreads out before you, then it dips back to earth and it all momentarily disappears, to reappear again. That's the magic of a Ferris wheel.

If you like the cars, the workers lock you in and the cars start out slowly, gradually speed up, jerk and bounce around the corners and then slow down. Just as you relax, they repeat the process backwards. There are some silent screams while others just clutch the metal seat bar. The carousel offers a gentle option as the horses chase each other around in circles for five minutes.

Close to the building, stands of food vendors offer chicken skewers, profusions of thin potato fries, corn dogs and fried Oreos. "I'm a daycare provider and this is their favorite." Another woman offers, "I am a daycare provider in Maryland. I've been bringing my kids here for 20 years. I have three here today."

In a few more minutes for the first time in the fair’s 43-year history, a new beer garden will open, the DJ Dance Party will be held in the Entertainment Tent, and you can sing along with the Arlingtones at their booth. And if you want to come back on Saturday you can enter the pie-eating contest. There will be jams and cakes and quilts and flowers to be judged and ribbons will be awarded at the Competitive Exhibits Awards Ceremony on Saturday night.