By Nastacia Voisin • Of the News-Register • 

Sheridan Days keeps community hopping

Flags strung high above the Sheridan High School green waved as a fickle breeze teased fairgoers with the sweet scents of kettle corn, elephant ears, gyros, pulled pork, yakisoba noodles and hot dogs, just to name a few.

Vendors peddled jewelry, summer outfits, statuettes, soap and wooden signs. A band decked out in beads and sequins to match this year’s theme — “It’s Mardi Gras Time!” — added to the festive mood with tunes like “Roses of Picardy” and “Wabash Blues.”

Children lined up to get their face painted, one hand clutching a parent’s jeans, the other a bobbing balloon.

The carnival was a particular magnet for teens, who giggled and jostled one another as they impatiently waited for rides. A Ferris wheel looped lazily all afternoon, as a steady line of people gathered for a turn in its pastel-hued carriages.

Shrieks of exhilaration from people who dared the carnival’s Zipper, a ride that lifted them high in the air, then swung them upside down, washed over the field and caused people to glance skyward and smile. Occasionally they’d catch sight of helicopters thundering by as riders were ferried overhead on sight-seeing adventures.

In front of the high school, families settled on blankets and benches to eat lunch and savor ice cream. People wore sunglasses in defiance of the clouds, hoping the occasional stripe of sunshine would linger.

In an adjacent lot, indifferent ponies nibbled hay from the hands of adoring children, who crowded against the corral bars, eager to pet manes and stroke soft pony noses.

The fair’s energetic epicenter was the 17th annual bike show, organized by the American Legion Riders.

Riders bedecked in leather jackets and chaps arranged their gleaming bikes in rows for judging as an appreciative audience gathered to observe the motorcycle games.

When Gale Sears announced the start of the slow race, the growl of bike engines and the crowd’s cheers forced him to bellow through his megaphone. “Feet off the ground, feet off the ground!” he called as contestants lined up.

The games continued throughout the afternoon with agility competitions, a 50/50 drawing and a toy toss.

This year’s organizers, Ivan and Cherry Whitlow, included children in the toss. They invited youngsters to hurl stuffed toucans, snakes and tigers into a can, though often with more enthusiasm than skill.

The number of young participants, and the good cheer of the crowd, confirmed success for Ivan Whitlow

“You wait ‘til next year,” he said, “when the other kids hear about this. I’ll bet next year, they’ll be 40 kids wanting to play.”

By noon, navy, red and green lawn chairs dotted Bridge Street sidewalks in anticipation of the 6 p.m. grand parade. When entrants and bands finally rolled by, hundreds of people would crowd along the curbside to the cheer and whistle.

Karyn Smith planned to pack up her handcrafted soaps before the parade rolled around, content with an afternoon of the fair’s energy and excitement. “That’s what a fair’s purpose is,” she said, “to bring a sparkle to everyone’s eye.”

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