Today marks the start of Indiana State Fair, which celebrates its 161st season with the theme: “The Year of the Popcorn.”
Although I grew up showing my horses at Indiana State Fair for ten summers, the only themes from my State Fair days that I remember are: “The Year of the Ice Cream” and “The Year of the Ice Cream: Part II.”
I’m not sure if this theme was ever an actual theme at Indiana State Fair, but for anyone who knows my Pap or walked down the main drag at the fair during the ice cream incident – it was most definitely a theme, and a recurring theme for him.
It started simply enough. Showing horses in August heat, lugging around gear and getting items together can be tiresome. Staying up until 1 a.m. to get a spot in the practice ring, sleeping in the horse barn (because all the kids did it, which meant, all the adults had to do it) and getting the horse groomed is, well, trying.
Despite the stresses, my Pap and family supported my showing and there wasn’t one show in Pepsi Coliseum that I didn’t look over the main gate and see my Pap’s smile and IU baseball hat peeking over with pride. To this day, I think it’s the best view I’ve seen – I’d trade it in for Prague at midnight or the U.S. Capitol Building from my old apartment’s window. There are few moments that had as much sentimentality to them as that one did, and I got to have it 10 times in my life. Showing the horse I trained with my Pap, while catching glimpses of him watching as his eyes glistened with emotion—there’s not much better.
However, there was a different kind of emotion from my Pap that popped up later. The kind of emotion that happens when a man drops the ice cream cone he’s been wanting for a week. And it’s not pretty.
Pap has a specific ice cream spot at Indiana State Fair, it’s right off the Midway. They make their own waffle cones, they hand-dip the ice cream and they put a malt ball on the bottom of the cone, “Just like when I was a kid,” he’d say.
The tricky part: They closed earlier and opened later than most vendors. For the whole week, he’d say “After this, I’m going to go get me a cone of that ice cream.” The week was so busy every day got away from him. He wanted that cone so much I’m pretty sure he dreamt about it.
So, after struggling through the heat, the hectic schedule and the everything-else, he finally found his spot in line at the ice cream stand. And, boy, was he ready. Money in hand. Smile on face.
“I’ll have three dips of peach ice cream in a waffle cone,” he said as he rocked back on his heels in delight before forking over six bucks.
There it was, beaming through the fluorescent light of a traveling food stand. He took a few steps – right to the center of the midway – and that is where “The Year of the Ice Cream” was born.
As he took a bite, the handmade cone collapsed. His ice cream dove into a mass of popcorn kernels and elephant ear dustings, right before that little malt ball – rubbing salt into the now-gaping wound – also fell to the ground and rolled off.
This is the moment, my Pap rolled off. The cuss words started, the stomps erupted and before we knew it we were witnessing a grown man, typically kind and remotely calm – until moments like this, in a full-blown tantrum. He jumped on the ice cream, he stomped it, he used more than a few choice words. To say he exclaimed foul words at the fallen ice cream would be a tremendous understatement.
There was silence walking back into the barns, then the laughter started and I’m not sure when it stopped.
Then, the next year: Part II. The same story, the same ending. But, right when he thought no one saw his explosive fit over yet-another-fallen dip. He heard, “Hey, Floyd Chapman! Need some more ice cream?”
It was his doctor’s wife, not his diabetic doctor – so that’s a bonus. She and her mother had witnessed the whole fit, like my family and I did the year before.
So, if you have a long day of showing animals at Indiana State Fair and want a cone of ice cream to cool you off, order yours in a cup. You never know who is watching… and laughing.
[friday] editor/ My Pap literally screams for ice cream