Friday, October 16, 2009

The old Cherokee Indian Fair

The 97th Cherokee Indian Fair has come and gone. According to the p.r., it was a slick and wholesome event, filled with live shows (comedies, music and "authentic tribal dances), educational exhibits and cultural crafts. I didn't go. Frankly, I miss the "old" Cherokee Indian Fair of the 40's and 50's, a week of sideshows with geeks (they bit the heads off of live chickens), "hoochie-coochie" girls, gambling joints, bingo parlors, a big, loud calliope, a ferris wheel - all wrapped in the pungent aroma of cotton candy, hot dogs and fry bread. Sleazy and vulgar displays with no redeeming social merit. I still remember "The Tia juania Wildcats" and a fortune-teller who told me to beware of red-headed women.

I remember that you could smell the old fair long before you got to it. I specially remember a cold night in October when Uncle Stoogie took me to Cherokee. He was home on leave from the Air Force and pleasantly drunk. I ate three hot dogs, rode the swings and threw up, played bingo until Stoogie was broke, but I won a little pink radio would become the magic door to exotic places, including Sargeant Preston of the Royal Mounties, Mr. Keen and "Suspense."

When other folks talk about their most memorable night, it seems to invariably be something like a wedding, a graduation or a reunion with a loved one. For me, it is a cold October night, riding home with Uncle Stoogie, wrapped in a "Cherokee blanket" and hugging a little pink radio.


  1. It was the Piedmont Interstate Fair for us down here in Spartanburg. It has been rained out a few days this week. I don't ever remember that happening before. I remember most my first trip in the fun house by myself when I was five - was not fun. I was scared to death. I hate clowns now. But I did win a stuffed puppy by tossing nickels at tilted platters.

  2. The Cherokee Fair was our family vacation. We saved our pennies, nickels and dimes all year to go to the fair and I have many precious memories that I wouldn't trade for the world...especially memories of being with my Daddy who was my protector. He was one of a kind!

    You probably got good advice from the fortune teller.


  3. One of the interesting "spinoffs" of the old Cherokee Fair was the Cherokees who came and camped out in the woods during the week. I remember seeing hundreds of quilts, Cherokee families cooking and an uncommon number of young women who walked through the fair grounds all day and night.
    Years later when I worked in Cherokee, an old man
    told me that there were a lot of babies born nine months after the fair left.

  4. You just got me thinking how excited I would get as a kid when the carnival would come to town. You're right about the sleaze element but I thought it was a wealth of treasure and a cornucopia of exotic foods.