“When you’re a kid and you go to the fair, everything is big, bright, beautiful, lots of colors, lots of food,” she remembers.
Now, she has the opportunity to share that experience with her son, 5-year-old Judah.
“It’s been fun to see Judah kind of have that same feel,” Ayers said. “Now that I’m back as a mom, it’s maybe not as grand and big as I remember as a kid, but it’s a lot of fun, still. The rides are great.”
Ayers and Judah were among the many families exploring the games, rides and attractions Wednesday on the Appalachian Fair’s midway, which opened at 3 p.m. The fair, which is in its 93rd year, runs this week from Monday to Saturday.
On Wednesday, attendees hopped among a litany of wild, rotating rides, occasionally holding their hands in the air as they zipped past spectators. Families also stopped at games set up along the fairgrounds, trying score a goal off a backboard emblazoned with a popular superhero or pop balloons for a chance to win a stuffed animal.
Ayers said one of Judah’s favorite attractions at the fair is the barnyard nursery, where he can see ducks, sheep, cows and goats.
Lily Preston, who was at the fair with Ayers, brought her sons, 3-year-old Niel and baby Titus, on Wednesday. She’s attended the fair in the past, but this was her first time bringing her sons.
“He didn’t ride the rides at Dollywood when we went, but now he’s riding them,” Preston said of Niel, who had the opportunity to take a trip on the merry-go-round.
Shannon Brown, a direct support professional at Highland Community Services in Abingdon, attended the fair on Wednesday with members of the organization’s day support program, which serves people with intellectual disabilities.
“Our goal is to take individuals into the community so they can build natural supports,” she said. “Kind of like those friends and connections that you and I already have, like our favorite bank teller or our favorite lady at the grocery store.”
Even though members of the program had only been at the fair for a little while as of about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, they had already spent time on a couple of the rides.
The Himalaya, which rotates riders up-and-down slopes and through a tunnel, and the Mantis, a thrill ride shaped like a loop rising out of the center of the midway, were high on their to-do list. They were also looking forward to getting a funnel cake.
Harli Tester from Gray was at the fair on Wednesday with her husband Corey and her two daughters, Lilly and Aunah. She was looking forward to Wednesday’s Morgan Wallen concert. Tester said she’s been following along with Wallen’s career for about two or three years now. She likes his music and his mullet.
“His mullet for sure,” she laughed.
Ayers said many of the same rides she remembers seeing at the fair when she was a kid are still present at the event today.
“It’s kind of like coming back with your child and becoming a kid again,” Ayers said. “And that’s one way to do it: If you become a kid, your kids have more fun.”