Just a week to go. Excited anticipation growing.
Keiki of all ages counting down to the County Fair. A day off from school. On the west side, looking forward to the ride to Kahului in a Pioneer Mill truck. Out Hamakuapoko way, there will be a special train.
Over on Oahu, the high-rollers booking passage for themselves and their horses. Check bank accounts and figure how much can be wagered on the races in front of the grandstand. Maui horse guys checking their ponies and guessing which will do the best in what race. The stables behind the fairgrounds hum with activity.
Truck farmers, big and small, look over their crops, selecting the best of the vegetables and fruit. Women put the final stitches in quilts and refine recipes for baked goods. Members of 4-H groom calves, pigs, sheep and goats for judging. Bird lovers check coops of exotic fowl - pigeons, chickens, ducks, pheasants and others. Bragging rights are more important than blue ribbons.
That was when the Maui County Fair and Horse Racing Association staged the annual community get together. Members of the association built the fairgrounds on Puunene Avenue, erecting buildings and digging a canal to drain the low-lying, swampy land. Individual sheds are dedicated to edibles and animals. Among the first of the construction jobs was the Territorial Building, which turned into the Homemakers Building every year.
The Portuguese community created a traditional stone oven behind the Territorial Building, ready to turn out malassadas and bean soup. Flying Saucers draw the hungry to a red, plywood booth near the midway. Ethel Baldwin and others involved with Hui No'eau build a small, cinder block art gallery not far from the caretaker's house occupied by George and Mabel Ito.
With only a week to go, E.K. Fernandez has crews erecting rides on the midway. Bare light bulbs are strung overhead to provide a ghostly glow in the night. Up in Olinda, inmates carve and polish all manner of wooden implements, art objects and furniture for display in the Hawaiian Building.
All that was then.
Next week, the annual county fair opens with a parade down Kaahumanu Avenue on Thursday. The parade grows longer every year. Much of the fair is the same as it always has been. The location changed in the 1980s from the fairgrounds to the War Memorial Complex when A&B no longer ignored the area's development possibilities after the grandstand and the Territorial Building burned down.
There was a nearly yearlong wrangle about where the fair should go, or even if it would continue. The Maui County Fair and Horse Racing Association turned down suggested locations and gave up coordinating the event. A private, nonprofit organization was set up, led by Avery Chumbley, who went on to be chairman of the fair for many years. The county allowed the fair to be held at the War Memorial Complex but left everything else to Chumbley's group of civic leaders.
The homemakers, vegetable and fruit growers moved into the gymnasium, along with a student art exhibit and a photography display. Maui's avid and accomplished orchid growers had the rear of the gym for ever-more elaborate presentations.
The old sheds have been succeeded by tents. The fair runs despite the weather, which is usually pleasant but can get damp. A food court was established with a cornucopia of delectables being offered by nonprofit, community organizations, which rely on the income to carry them until next year's fair.
E.K. Fernandez is still around, creating a neon-lit midway to the delight of keiki and "games of skill" fans. Visiting the livestock tent requires walking through the Fun Zone crowds and around lines for the rides.
Between the food court and its ranks of picnic tables is the entertainment tent. And, beyond that are the tents housing booths for nonprofit groups, handicrafts for sale and a variety of commercial products. Between those tents and the gym, Maui's firemen and police officers have exhibits.
It takes hours to see, taste and enjoy everything the fair has to offer. Bring a smile and endurance. The fair runs from Oct. 3 through Oct. 6 - Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including one morning devoted to Mauians with various handicaps.
For some of us, the best part of the fair is the string of meet and greets, fleeting contacts with friends seldom seen during the year. See you at the fair.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.