How to save money when taking the family to "the fair" — according to my dad.


1. Pack a lunch, complete with about 500 ice packs, leave it in the car and cross your fingers that it stays edible. That takes care of the food.


2. Listen for radio promotions so that you know which bumper sticker will provide free parking.


3. Scope out the schedule, and take the kids the time and day that rides are free.


4. Change the preceding week’s grocery shopping to the one that provides free admission tickets with a grocery purchase.


5. Take advantage of the zoo membership purchased earlier in the year, and spend the rest of the day there when the free ride period is over.


6. Go home, making sure to take the “rollercoaster road” route home and offer that as an “extra ride” to the kids, hopefully deterring them from the McDonald’s that inconveniently resides two blocks from the house.


Ever notice how the cost of going to the fair is totally worth it... when you’re young?

No matter the size of the fair, the experience is not complete without the rides, the food and the games.

Although we may enjoy it in adulthood, most must admit that as a child, looking at exhibits that weren’t yours were boring.

And while the cost to attend the fair change as we age, so do the parts we appreciate.

A child’s view of the fair (because, if you can’t tell, it wasn’t that long ago for me) is fearless. It doesn’t matter who’s running what ride as long as you have a bracelet or enough tickets to ride it. Who cares if a game costs $2.50 to play only if you win a small, stuffed... “what is that?”

Of course, spending money at the fair was something that only occurred to me as a teen. See, my dad figured out exactly how to take the family to the fair — in my childhood, Springfield’s Ozark Empire Fair — for free.

1. Pack a lunch, complete with about 500 ice packs, leave it in the car and cross your fingers that it stays edible. That takes care of the food.

2. Listen for radio promotions so that you know which bumper sticker will provide free parking.

3. Scope out the schedule, and take the kids the time and day that rides are free.

4. Change the preceding week’s grocery shopping to the one that provides free admission tickets with a grocery purchase.

5. Take advantage of the zoo membership purchased earlier in the year, and spend the rest of the day there when the free ride period is over.

6. Go home, making sure to take the “rollercoaster road” route home and offer that as an “extra ride” to the kids, hopefully deterring them from the McDonald’s that inconveniently resides two blocks from the house.

Did I mention that I didn’t eat my first funnel cake until my aunt bought it for me when I was 12?

Although, Dad did have a point that going to the fair didn’t have to involve spending the wallet’s entire contents. Maybe it’s not necessary to take the extremes that he did, but if the cards fall correctly, why not take advantage of a deal?

The important part is creating the fond fair memories, and if mine involve how we didn’t spend money, then so be it.

Luckily, what interests adults becomes cheaper.

Exhibits are an entire root of a fair. They become more interesting with age. Adults have more appreciation for the hard work it takes to create, grow and/or raise an exhibit. I now spend more time looking at exhibits than I do all other fair activities combined. Yes, part of that is because many fair exhibits are now housed in air conditioned buildings.

At the time, I didn’t care that my sister painted a watercolor portrait of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, only that she got every award possible for it. Today, I would’ve been bowled over to discover that a 7 year old painted that.

Thus, it’s nice growing up with fairs. Regardless of their size, fairs always have those root elements that we love, or grow to love.

Contact Jennifer Hollis at jennifer.hollis@lakemediaonline.com.