Poetry Corner: Cracker Barrel Fair

by Jim Farfaglia

In 1968 the Women’s Auxiliary of the A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital began organizing an  annual fair to raise money for the hospital. In its early years the fair was conceptualized and led by Mrs. Vita Chalone, who provided me with many details of the event for this poem.

In the brisk September air

a brother and sister clutch hands.

They’ve gotten permission to walk through

the crowds of Recreation Park

and, with so much to see and do,

they don’t want to lose each other.


Among the ladies in festive peasant dresses

and the men with string ties and straw hats,

they notice The Hobos:

those fun-loving ladies clowning around,

who give them the giggles.


They can’t decide how to spend their dollar –

should it be on the Games of Chance:

the Fish Pond? the Month Game?

5–In–A–Row? the Dunking Booth?

Or should they splurge on the tempting food:

Polish kielbasa? Italian sausage?

Pizza Fritta? Donuts and cider?


As they decide, they take in the sounds:

Dick Swierczek’s High School Band,

Jose Azcue’s Chorus,

the Gauchos marching in grandeur.

They smile at their Mom and Dad

dancing to Joe Cortini and his All-Stars,

then hear Mom say that, with any luck,

they’ll get to hear Jack Walsh’s voice

rising up from the 30-Man Chorus.


They wander through The Country Store:

the War Memorial sent back in time

to penny candy and a pantry shelf,

hand-crafted Raggedy Ann dolls,

needlecraft and Grandma’s Attic treasures.


Later they’ll take a ride on the Ferris wheel

and when they stop at the top

they’ll look across the river

to the Lee Memorial Hospital,

and then out over the city of Fulton:

the community that came together for this Fair.

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