Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Summer of Music, A Butter Cow & Cold, Delicious Milk

Once upon a time, I was a teenager.
Yes, that's me in my amazing, polyester uniform.
Oh, the glasses! Oh, the mullet!
Where are the Fashion Police when you need them?
I know. It's hard for me to believe, too.

The summer I was 17 was a magical summer. Having completed my junior year in high school, I was already looking toward realizing my dream of being a professional musician. To that end, my choir director, Mrs. Essman, nominated me for a few awards and opportunities. One was the National Choral Award, (which I won). The second was a scholarship to the Governor's Summer School for the Arts at Ohio University, (which I was awarded). And the third was the one that would change my life in more ways than I could have imagined.

When I got the notification that I had been accepted into the ranks of the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir, I was ecstatic. Just a few short months later, I reported for practices a week before the Ohio State Fair opened. At the time, The Ohio State Fair was the longest state fair in the United States, clocking in at 21 days. So, in the end, I was holed up on a bunk bed, in an un-air-conditioned dorm (right across from a very smelly sheep barn) for an entire month.  Not that I was complaining. As the oldest of five kids, I was glad to get out of the house and off on my own.

My first wave of homesickness hit me when I arrived in the cafeteria for dinner the first night. None of us were quite sure what the entree was. We assumed it was meat, but it had been pre-chewed and re-formed into pork chop shaped objects then covered in a layer of gooey sauce that resembled brown Elmer's glue, more than gravy. We dubbed it Mystery Meat and resolved to find a better spot to eat from then on.

More often than not, our hang out was the Wendy's tent. But after a few days, Wendy's got expensive and so we opted, instead, for the fresh farm goodness of the Dairy Barn's swiss cheese sandwiches, fresh milk, and ice cream cones. You could eat like a king for about $2.00. But the best part of the Dairy Barn was the air conditioning.

Each year, the American Dairy Association honors someone, or something uniquely "Ohioan" by creating a sculpture in butter and displaying it with a cow and calf, also sculpted out of butter. Even though the sculptures are kept in a cooler, to maintain the constant temperature in the summer heat, the whole building had to be air conditioned. We spent many evenings in the Dairy Barn just fascinated by the Butter Cow Display. How could you make something that realistic looking out of butter?  Actually, it was pretty cool. In addition to being, well...cooler than our dorms.

When the Fair began we sang.
And sang. And sang.
And we marched and marched.

We'd have between 4 and 6 shows per day and we hoofed it from spot to spot. I, being a foolish girl, had decided to come forward to volunteer my bass-drum playing skills to the drum corps and that was why the 1986 AOSFYC boasted the very first all-girl drum corps in the fair's history. We were very proud of ourselves until it was 98 degrees and we had to march the entire length of the mile-long fairgrounds carrying our big, heavy drums. Then we were just tired. And very thirsty.

So back to the dairy barn we went.
Tell you what: Milk never tasted so good.

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir.  Founded in 1963 by Glenville Thomas, the choir has marched in the Parade of Roses, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and has sung all over Europe and the United States.  Each year, students from all over Ohio submit applications for the positions within the choir. In my year, there were 310 positions and more than 1,500 applications. Some years were smaller, but none were bigger.  Added all together over the lifetime of the choir more than 8,000 students have made their way through this program. That's a large impact.

Interestingly enough, it all comes back to the Dairy Barn again this year. Glenville Thomas and the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir are the honorees this year for Butter Cow.  It's a massive sculpture and took 6 people to complete. Check out this video to see how it's put together.

We used to go with our kids every year. Invariably, we would stop off in the Dairy Barn to see the Butter Cow and have ice cream and sandwiches, but as the kids got older, it got hard to go.  I haven't been to the fair for a few years now. Too busy. Too hot. Too expensive.

But this year, I think I need to make a pilgrimage to see the Butter Cow and have a swiss cheese sandwich in the Dairy Barn with my husband. After all, you can still eat like a king for $4.00.

And I need a picture with that Butter Cow. 
(I wonder if I can find my shirt?)

If you're in the area, you can visit the Butter Cow, too. The Ohio State Fair runs July 24th - August 4th, 2013. For more information about what's happening at the fair, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful memories Katie! AOSFYC is a special family. My daughter is a 4yr alum ('98-'01) also. I wish I could say I was. Actually, I think we should start a group for "Parents of AOSFYC". I went to the fair yesterday, solely hear and show my support for the choir, and for Mr. Snyder. They sounded wonderful!! I didn't get to the butter display (my feet just wouldn't go any further), but I feel pretty certain I will go back at least once more before the fair ends, and that will be at the top of my list!