Lawn chair sitting a grand fair tradition


By Lew Freedman


The lawn chair people are easy to please.

Just give them a shady spot and a parade of humanity and they are content with the offerings of the Jackson County Fair.

They are not going to climb on the thrill rides for a whirl, stuff their bellies with sweet, caloric content like cotton candy or ooh and ahh over the moos and baas in the 4-H barns.

Thousands of people seek summer fun at the fair each day, but they all have different tastes. The attendees who are 5 and holding mommy’s hand have different expectations from those in their 80s who have fair memories dating back to when they were 5.

“I’ve been coming to this fair since I was a little girl,” said Rosetta Loudermilk Titus, 82, of Medora.

Titus was part of a gang of a handful of relatives whose entertainment of choice at the fair is sitting. They were of the bring-your-own-chair crowd, perched in a row beneath a tree adjacent to benches that casual passersby plop down on to take a load off.

Titus and the other 80-something group were professional sitters. They remained in place for hours Wednesday, skipped Thursday, and returned Friday. They are BYOCers, or Bring Your Own Chair participants, and sometimes they stick around for 10 or even 12 hours just checking out the scene.

Marvin Rumph and wife Linda of Seymour were there. So was Marilyn Kendall, Marvin’s sister. Also, Titus, and Pearl Davis, who is Marvin’s aunt. It was a dizzying set of links, but they eagerly look forward to keeping their fair tradition alive each year.

Davis, 85, who lives on the outskirts of Seymour, said she remembers way back when there might be 50 family members sitting together, but these are the remnants of an older generation. Not that there weren’t other clan members floating around the grounds, including grandchildren eating and playing.

“I was one of 11 children,” Davis said. “Our family always came to the fair.”

Their lawn chair sitters were near the St. John Sauers Lutheran food stand, where the hot dogs, corn on the cob and other staple foods were  reasonably priced, compared to those way-up-there Midway $7 lemon shake-ups and $8 sausages.

When they were young, Davis said a quarter was good spending money for the fair. You could get on a bunch of rides for that money.

Davis still enjoys coming to the fair, but with a totally different perspective judging the quality of the event.

“We were probably brought when we were babies, the first one,” she said. “This is the best one around.”

Marvin Rumph, accompanied by wife Linda, said for him, picking a cozy spot is all about people observing.

“Just watching,” he said of the main attraction of being out at the grounds for him.

While this contingent had the spot to themselves on Wednesday, Bill and Deborah Sons of Seymour anchored the area for hours Thursday. Again, Bill said it was all about people watching and having those shuffling past come to them.

“When we were younger and came to the fair and saw the lawn chair people, we said, ‘We don’t want to be like them,'” he said. Now in their 60s, they are them. “We don’t mind. My favorite thing is when they people come by. They can stop and say hi.”

Deborah, who had grandchildren participating in 4-H events, said she likes fair food, even if they are some of the same things one might eat at home.

“I like the hamburgers,” Deborah said. “They just taste better at the fair.”

The Sons made themselves comfy in modern-style canvas-soft lawn chairs, but it should be noted there are lawn chairs and there are lawn chairs.

Some people refer to old-style lawn chairs as patio furniture. They fold, their frames are aluminum tubing, and bottoms and backs tend to be made of colorful webbed plastic-like substance.

They don’t weigh much, are easily transported and give off a 1950s vibe.

Davis, showed off one such chair featuring blue and green striped mesh and Kendall reclined in a yellow chair of similar design.

“I’d hate to say it, it might be 40 years old,” Kendall said. “Maybe 50.”

The Rumphs and Titus were seated in the canvas-style folding chairs that have become common among parents viewing their children’s sporting events while avoiding sitting on hard bleachers in grandstands.

They seemed trendy in comparison to the blue-green striped and yellow old-school chairs. Certainly, the manufacturers would claim they are more comfortable, but the true lawn chair is a classic, the Chevy Bel Air of lawn chairs.

The fact it was 90 degrees did not build stamina, even in the protective shade, such as it was. While Titus expected to hang until well past nightfall, she packed up at 4:30 p.m.

A temporary vacating of the spot, to be sure. She was planning to return over the last couple of days of the fair.

“I’ll be back,” Titus said. “I don’t want to miss anything.”

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