The fair can’t come to town without my wife indulging in a funnel cake.

It’s not so much that she has to have a funnel cake which is basically fried bread, it’s tradition.

The Central Kansas Free Fair is all about traditions. Generations of county families have participated in the events surrounding the fair.

In high school my wife marched in the parade, twirling a baton to the music of the band.

I, working for Green Ford, drove the latest muscle car — probably a Mustang Mach 1 — with the windows down and the radio blaring.

There was a time when if you were in the parade, you received a free ticket to the rodeo where we just had to order cotton candy. That cotton candy tradition lives on today with my grandchildren.

Naturally the parade and the rodeo are long-time traditions. Here are a few others at the fair:

• Ferris Wheel

Naturally the Ferris Wheel towers over the carnival. It glows at night, signaling there is fun to be had. Watching the workers set up the Ferris Wheel and other carnival rides and games is also the sign that school is just around the corner. And it is.

• Free stuff

My father John always got a new yardstick from the Reynolds Real Estate and Auction Company. The fair also provides an opportunity to stock up on pens and calendars from the vendors.

• Games

The first thing parents need to teach their sons and daughters is that nobody wins that huge teddy bear without spending more money than it is worth. But teaching the kids about the games is another tradition being carried on in my family. I taught Ryan. He’s teaching his son Teigan.

• Food

There is always something new. Back when my kids were younger, getting a snow cone was unique. We always bought those last so we could the bring the kids home to the bathtub to get rid of the sticky syrup that had dripped down their arms and chins.

• Hanging out

From middle school age on, the fair and the carnival was the place to just hang out and meet up with friends, many we hadn’t seen since the last fair. The #3415 steam locomotive played a big role in my family’s activities during the fair when I was young. It was where we met up with the folks when it was time to go home.

• Farm animals

Naturally there is an abundance of animals from pigs to chickens. We raised a lot of hogs growing up on a hobby farm south of Abilene, but they never got as big as those at the fair.

• 4-H projects

I was a member of 4-H, the Abilene Aggies Club, if I recall correctly. My project was turning an antique lamp into an electrical lamp.

Lloyd Rose was my 4-H instructor and he did a great job teaching, judging from my experience in high school shop. While the other kids struggled in wiring lights both parallel and in a series, I was able to whiz through it.

Series wiring is like those darn Christmas lights. When one goes out, they all go out.

• Funnel cakes

Through the fair is right around the corner, as are the freshly made funnel cakes, why wait?

How hard can it be to make funnel cake?

I found a funnel cake mix. Just add water and fry.

Last week I got out the perfect deep-fat frying pan, managed to give our dog Maggie a treat in spilling powdered sugar all over the floor and set out to make the perfect funnel cake.

Following the directions, I carefully whisked the ingredients and slowly poured it from a measuring cup into the hot oil.

Directions said to fry it about 30 seconds and turn it over.

The result? Crispy crust outside with a doughy center. It all went in the trash.

Needless to say, my wife will have to wait until next week to get her first funnel cake of the season. The tradition continues.

Contact Tim Horan at

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