five bells & fair 075 (Small)I’ve always loved fairs; the lights, the noise, the music, the encouraging shouts, the blaring horns on rides, the happy people walking around, the smells of burgers, candyfloss, electricity and petrol…In fact, I adore the whole buzz!

Stevens Funfair, the biggest and best of the lot, was in our town for its annual visit, the same week that the Carnival is held here.

Last year the heavens opened and it was blowing a gale. The poor, saturated Carnival procession still went ahead with hardly any audience, but the Fair had to close as it was unsafe in that weather – and there were no punters there anyway! This year made up for it though. I went there on a sunny afternoon and walked around amongst the families. All the children were clutching balloons, and all the parents were eating, I’m sure! You could almost reach out and touch the happy atmosphere!

Fairgrounds have progressed through the years. The stalls and rides are immaculately clean. I have memories of small, local fairs with dirty, chipped paintwork.

And talking of dirty, chipped paintwork, I was never allowed to eat Fairground food. My Mum said it was dirty. (She said that about a lot of things.) Ifive bells & fair 054 (Small) have memories of heavily made-up ladies with dirty, chipped nail varnish selling hot dogs and toffee apples.

Now, of course, they all have Health & Hygiene Certificates, and are subjected to spot checks by the council.

The Fairground is owned by Charmaine Stevens.

It used to be owned by the late, great showman Billy Smart. But the Circus and the Fair got too big to travel together, so his daughter Peggy and her husband Joseph took over the Fair, while Billy Smart concentrated on the Circus.

Joe died six years ago, aged 90. And now his daughter Charmaine owns and runs it with her family.

More about that in another article soon!

I went through the Mirror Maze, owned by Julie, who lives locally and has been a Showman all her life. It’s built of glass, and you have to walk through with your arms held out in front of you. It’s hard to see which way to go as there’s only one route, and you keep bumping into a glass wall. Great fun!

Then I went on the Dodgems; one of the oldest traditional Fairground rides, and still as popular as ever.

I paid at the booth, and there was a baby in a pram, fast asleep and oblivious to all the noise.

No tip-toeing and whispering around Funfair children!

Everyone seemed to be aiming for me, I’m sure. But I could give back as good as I got!

Yes, I still found it great fun, but the last time I went on the Dodgems I didn’t have so many Wobbly Bits!

In the evening I went back with Hubby John after the Carnival procession.

I wanted to go on the Waltzers as they’d been too busy in the afternoon.

Jason, (known as Pee-Wee) has worked for Perry Stevens every season for 22 years!

When the ride started and the lights flashed rapidly, Pee-Wee and the others performed a strange, macabre ballet, like a cross between break dancing, disco and the Rocky Horror Show. They walked daintily and effortlessly backwards, dipped sideways, spun the cars and generally showed off to the waiting audience.

Despite the odd paunch or missing tooth, they were transformed into John Travolta or a young David Essex. And apparently, they’re never short of admiring females!

As soon as the ride stopped and the lights came on, everyone suddenly rushed forwards. It really was every man (well, every teenager) for him/herself!

We watched carefully, and the next time, I grabbed a Waltzer. The younger ones politely backed off when they saw me.

Getting older does sometimes have its advantages!

Hubby John decided he wanted to come on it with me.

As the ride got faster and faster and the cars started spinning round, the colour left his face and I thought he’d passed out! But he said he was OK.

I loved it and I could have gone on again. But when we got out, John sat down, as white as a sheet, saying he felt giddy. Then he staggered off, retching. Party Pooper!

So we had to go home.

Memories of my Dad taking me on the swingboats when I was about eight, then throwing up.

Some people just don’t have the stamina for Fairground rides!

But the good thing about a Fairground is, you can go there but you don’t have to spend any money if you don’t want to. You can walk around for as long as you like and savour the atmosphere, which is great entertainment as far as I’m concerned, and much more fun than sitting in a pub!

On Sunday, I drove to the local supermarket for their afternoon bargains (see article about that.)

As I drove home, a couple of brightly-decorated articulated lorries passed me. The Fairground had packed up already, and was off to their next venue.

And do you know, I actually had a lump in my throat. I felt as though a neighbour or a good friend was moving away!

Maybe in a previous life I’d been part of a showman family. And if I was, I’d have been proud of my heritage!

Roll on next year. I’ll be there, at the Fair – weather permitting!