Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nighmare at the Flemington Fair

This is a true story. Kick back and relax for this one. I feel like a witness to the Hindenberg telling this. And by the time you finish reading this, you will know the horror and utter chaos of Saturday, August 3, 1985, my sister Geri's 12th birthday.(Goddamn you're getting old)

I was 9. My brother Frank was 6.
Best friends with the Figa Kids: Vicky, John, and Kevin.

Before we went to the Fair, all of us kids were at our house on Garrett Drive. We spent the whole day playing ball or tag or freeze tag or even ghost in the graveyard, all of it. At around 5:00 I believe we were all ready to go. It was only a few miles away and we were excited over the impending, all out euphoia that lies ahead of us.

We grew up next door to the Zender family. Very nice people and great neighbors. Carolyn was the oldest of 2. She was my age. Born,I think, a day and a year after me. Of course she was invited to go because she was all of ours' friend. Upon her arrival (around 5:15) my mother offered Carolyn a hot dog or a hamburger that she could throw on the grill. Carolyn said "no thanks"because she had spent the afternoon at her grandparents and had eaten Two BLTs. So with that we jumped into my mother's 1982 Ford Escort and off to the Fairgrounds we went.

Does anyone recall the size of Escorts? Tiny ass car. But we all fit comfortably in that car. The car was tiny but so were we.It was my mother driving, 5 kids in the back, and me in the front seat with my brother on my lap. Talk about illegal...but we never got hurt because our parents had good sense. And seat belts? You crazy? I think we used to scrunch them under the seats so we can fit more people in the car.

Anyway, back to the story. We arrive at the Fair on a perfect, warm summer night. We got our wristbands and were conveening on which ride to pop our excited cherries on. First, it was the "Haunted House". We all went in there and got the shit scared out of us. When we were done with that,everyone agreed that the "Swings" be next. Even today I would go on the "Swings" and I am 34. It was a high and quick ride. It stretched out and above a good piece of Rte 31 and would just go round and around again. So we all go on this one together and when it is done we really start getting fired up about which ride to attack next.

Carolyn had gotten off the "Swings" and was a little dizzy looking. My mom asked if perhaps she wanted to take a few minutes and not go on any rides for a bit and just walk around with her. Well, Carolyn-being the 8 year old trooper that she was-knew it wasn't going to be any fun walking with a mom and all the rest of us having a freakin' blast. So she said "no, I think I am okay". Think you might know where this is heading.

I believe it was Vicky or John that suggested that we all go on "Tilt-A-Whirl". Everyone has been on this and if you haven't, I feel sorry for you, but I'll quickly fill you in. Its a ride where you basically are spinning real quick and are being tugged and jerked around. Heavy "G Force" especally for little kids. In fact we were all so little, that all 7 of us got in the same cart. So we get on. I sat all the way to the left. My brother Frank next to me, and Carolyn right in the fucking middle. We probably weren't even through the first whirl, maybe 3 or 4 seconds into a solid 90 second ride, when the predictable happened. The first "tilt" and Carolyn "hurled". And I mean violently spraying everywhere. It was like David Ortiz hitting a pinata at a 6 year olds' birthday party(the explosion). Out of her nose, her mouth. Eveywhere. Helplessly we all start screaming at the guy running the ride to "STOP THE RIDE". I'll never forget that carnie's face with a smirk on it and him just shrugging his tattooed shoulders as if to say, "I can't, sorry kids but you are screwed". We all hysterically were just screaming, crying, pleading for God almighty to bring this ride to an end.Its weird because I remember looking at the faces of the people that were on line to go next and they had this look of absolute terror on them. At least I thought so. It was hard to tell with all that goddamn spinning going on. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the ride came to merciful stop. The shock,  the trauma, the unthinkable disaster, was over.

I'll never forget the look on my mother's face when she sees 7 kids covered in puke and crying their collective eyes out, walking towards her. She had no idea what to do with us. I mean we would just look at each other and instantaneously throw up almost on cue. That girl was only 8, but those BLTs she ate covered us in so much bread puke that it looked like we just climbed out of a tunnel of quicksand. I'll never forget that she had a half a tomato dangling from her shoulder. She was wearing an all turquoise suit. So that color jumpsuit supplied a decent contrasting back drop to the utter chaos in the forefront. Monet would have been proud, but my mom wasn't really looking at the artistic angle of this mess.

To her great credit, my mom got us all calm. There was no doubt that this fateful birthday party was over and we had to go home. But before we could, what were we going to do to clean off?

Now everyone knows that the 4H always had and still has a legacy at the Fair. And thankfully they were all out in full throttle that day. Animals everywhere. My mother ushered us all over to the sheep section and asked a man to borrow the hose he had attached to a generator. He took one look at all of us and rushed over to help us. He handed the hose to my mother and she went to town rinsing us off. So there we were, getting hosed off in front of the sheep tent at the 4H section of the Flemington Fairgrounds. Imagine Florence Henderson hosing off a puke-ridden pack of Brady Kids. Sort of like that. Now it was time for us to go home.

The seating arrangements were a little difficult because no one wanted to sit next to Carolyn  in case "Old Faithful" erupted again, due to the motion-sickness element of the car ride home. So as I recall she sat in the back-left window seat. My brother was on my lap, but now I was on my sister's lap in the front seat. My mom was driving of course, and the Figa Clan were in the back where they too improvised. Vicky had Kevin on her lap way over to the right side, right up against the window. I think their faces still have press marks from the window. And John braved the uncertain elements and sat bitch. Right in the middle. Right next to Mt. St. Helens.

We all arrived home without further incident. Carolyn ran next door all embarassed. Poor girl, she was very nice and a great neighbor with a great family, but we were glad to see her go because we all felt she ruined the party. Anyway, my mom made more stuff on the grill and we were all changed and clean. We were going to watch a movie and eat some popcorn before my father came home, than sing and have cake and ice cream.

At around 10:00 we were watching Goonies(I think) on our brand new "Beta Max" VCR, when the doorbell rang. My brother ran to answer the door assuming it was our father coming home when he yelled out, "Its Carolyn!" I recall a bunch of us making fake throw up noises at this announcement. Anyway she came in with a present for my sister. We ended up having a great time and I think the next day we all played kickball next door at Carolyn's. Everything turned out fine.

This story took place over 25 years ago.



  1. Fantastic! I laughed! I cried!

  2. they should rename the ride "Tilt-a-Hurl"

    har har har

  3. Hey Tony it's your cousin Nat. Great story! Love how you described the rides lol.

  4. Tony I'm cracking up! I don't know if it's the story or me imagining you telling it that way you do! LOL Great story...you can base a sitcom on it or use it in a stand up act for sure!!! :))