Alex and His Pen: Carrie’s Last Cider Fest

As fall rolled around, it was time for one of my favorite activities: The annual Cider Festival. I looked forward to it every year. For as long as I remembered, they held the Festival outside of my house

It was practically in my backyard. I remember when I was a kid, I’d get out of bed, take a few steps outside my house and watch the parade. That parade was always the highlight of the Festival. There were colorful floats, Boy Scout troupes, the band played. Even my Dad sometimes participated. He had an old truck that he inherited from his father that he was so proud of. Every year, he entered it in car shows, and it usually won.

Because of this, he got to drive the truck in the parade a few times. And best of all, he asked me to sit with him on one of his rides. Okay, it meant I had to miss the parade. But it was worth it to be IN the parade. Mom and Lisa said they’d collect candy for me. That was the other thing I liked about the parade: People always threw out candy. A month before Halloween, I had a bag full of candy to call my own. (And I got to keep doing that years after Mom thought I was too old to go trick or treating.)

Sadly, it wasn’t going to be like that, this year. For some reason, they decided to move it from the road by my house to my park. Mom explained that they probably didn’t want to block off traffic. For crying out loud, it was just one road! The park was still pretty darn close to home, but I couldn’t just step outside and be there. I couldn’t even walk there (Not unless I wanted to be really tired when I arrived there).

Worse of all, there’d be no parade! No parade already bit the big one, but I was finally in the band. That meant I would have been in the parade. Yeah, I know I was in the parade when I was younger, but I liked it! And I wanted to do it again, dang it.

But what I was losing in parades and closeness to my house, I was gaining in going with Marshall. Normally I went with the fam, but when I told Marshall how important this was to me, he agreed to go with.

Saturday morning came. I had to remind myself I couldn’t just step outside for the Festival. As much as I was looking forward to spending the day with Marshall, waiting for him to show up just wasn’t as satisfying as just stepping outside and having it right there. The lack of a parade already had me feeling less like it was Cider Fest time. Any other year, by this time, I’d have enjoyed the parade, and started walking around to see what all was available. This year, I was sitting on the couch in my jammies, watching TV and eating Peanut Butter Crunch.

It took a while, but Marshall finally showed up. I had to live with the fact that Marshall lived pretty far from me. That’s one good thing about there being no parade: Marshall would have been too late to take me. (Then again, Mom, Dad or Lisa probably would have been happy to take me, but still.)

I was so excited to finally go. During the drive up to the park, I told Marshall about all the fun times I had. It was a time for Funnel Cake and Elephant Ears. Those were the general memories, but there were a lot of times I distinctly remember – both good and bad.

When I was young, I remember they had the inflatable bounce house. That was one of my favorites. They also had the inflatable slide one year. I remember the guy who ran the ride had to grab some kid who kept trying to sneak on. I spent so much money on those inflatable rides.

Of course that year was also the year of disaster. Because the Cider Fest happened in fall, Halloween was close by. There were small shops that sold Halloween masks and other novelties. This was a humble shop in a tent – the so-called walls were just rows of metal shelves.

While I was in the shop, I needed to tie my shoe. Unfortunately, that’s when Mr. Wind decided to intervene, and that metal shelf fell on top of me. It was a small thing, but that was back when a small thing felt like a big deal. I remember crying my eyes out, and Lisa trying to make me feel better.

The store owners did nothing about it. I’m not sure if we could have taken legal action. Part of me was hoping that they could have given me something. Lisa tried to make me feel better and paid for me to take a couple of trips in the bounce house. I swung by later, and they finally put up a strap around that metal shelf. Too bad it was too late for me.

Another stroke of bad luck came years later. I was just trying to treat myself to an orange soda. It was the same time someone decided to launch a firework. I was startled and knocked my bottle into my tooth. I got a small chip. Luckily, when I say small, I mean tiny. It’s so small that no one ever notices unless I point it out. Heck, unless I think about the story, even I forget I have it.

One story that was annoying at the time but I laugh about in hindsight was they had a set where they’d give people cop uniforms and let them put people in jail. Lisa did that to me, and boy was I annoyed. Mom gave me some money to do it to Lisa. Sweet revenge was averted by the fact that Lisa wasn’t as bothered. Gotta say, it annoyed me at the time, but I laugh about it now.

That was the only year they did something like that. I’m guessing paying people to harass friends wasn’t a huge draw. The thing about the Cider Fest was they always seemed to do different things every year. Oh, there were certain guarantees – the Cider mill was always open for tours. There was usually the car show. I liked both of those. (By the way, wasn’t that the point? Holding the festival close to the mill?)

But there were always new things. For me, that was part of the excitement. What would they have this year? Did anything come back? Did anything change? One year, they had some army guys doing this jungle gym where we had to dangle like monkeys. Lisa challenged me to it. I tried the climb, but I chickened out on the first wrung.

Marshall seemed pretty amused by my stories. If he wasn’t already, he seemed genuinely excited about going.

Like I said, it wasn’t a long drive between my place and the park. In a matter of minutes, Marshall and I were at the Cider Fest. Marshall and I only walked a few feet into the park before I noticed something just didn’t feel right. This was Marshall’s first time so he had nothing to compare it to. It had been a part of my life for as long as I could remember, and I knew this just wasn’t right.

Being so close to home wasn’t just a matter of convenience, it gave the event a homey feel, I felt like I was visiting my neighbors when I toured my streets. I remember the whole town had this smell of barbecue whenever for the weekend. But being in the park just felt so… impersonal.

Everything was close together, but it felt so far away. When it was on my street, I remember being able to visit my local businesses – like my local ice cream or pizza place. But they were so far away. They had all the carney food, but it just wasn’t the same.

Marshall and I toured around for a few minutes, but I wasn’t having much fun. There were fewer shops. And it seemed like instead of the really fun things, there were just cheap stores and junk food. Marshall treated me to a caramel apple… or at least he would have. Because of my braces, I can’t eat caramel. His heart was in the right place though.

So he treated himself to a caramel apple while I got elephant ears. Marshall must have noticed my disappointment. Luckily, he never thought I was disappointed with him. I would never be. I told him how disappointed I was with the festival. What used to feel like a journey through so many different fun things now just felt like a random collection of crap.

Was it the change of scenery? Did I just not like it because it no longer had that close-to-home feeling? Was I growing out of it? Or had it always been this crappy and I was just now starting to notice? Marshall didn’t have the answer, and I didn’t either.

The two of us didn’t stick around long. Before we left, we did one thing fun. There was a charity event that let people destroy an already trashed car. I hated the idea of destroying a car, but the guy running it assured me that it was already wrecked. Marshall seemed to be enjoying putting a few dents in with a sledgehammer. Until that day, I never realized how heavy those hammers were.

Marshall and I left quickly after that. The worst part is I honestly felt like in the short time we were there, we had in fact seen all there was to see. I couldn’t even look forward to the car show. Dad was bowing out that year. A few years back, his truck, which had been kept in pristine condition since HIS father owned it, lost to a modern car. My dad’s not the kind of guy who would let one loss break his spirit. But he felt like his time for that sort of thing had passed.

I used to like those car shows. Marshall would have loved it. There would have been old cars. Old guys would have been talking shop about these nice, old cars. Something tells me Marshall would have understood them a lot better than I would.

With nothing to really look forward to, I decided a trip on Sunday wouldn’t be necessary. Growing up, I’d make several trips to and from each weekend. This year I decided once was enough.

This whole trip got me thinking about my reaction to apple cider. Growing up, I loved the stuff. That’s one of the reasons I looked forward to the event so much: It was the time of the year the stores would be filled with cider. But lately, I was beginning to notice it gave me… How do I put this? Tummy trouble. Actually, I noticed for the longest time the stuff disagreed with me. Then again, maybe it’s because I drank so much of it. Either way, maybe apple cider wasn’t worth the stomach ache (at best).

I guess you grow out of certain things. Maybe it was time to move on and create some new traditions. Sadly, this was the last Cider Fest I ever attended.

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