My Grandpa Stack, being a farmer in his younger days, loved going to the Ashtabula County Fair every summer. Since I was around eight years old, he and my grandma would take me and two or three grandkids to the fair.

Grandpa loved horse racing and he would spend hours at the track. And he loved looking at the livestock. And since I was a little kid, I had to endure both the races and the livestock tour when I really wanted to jump on the rides.

The midway food is what I remember most. The smell of fresh popcorn, all kinds of sandwiches,  elephant ears and the like made you hungry the minute you got out of the car in the parking lot. Even though the fair is limited this year due to the pandemic, I am glad they are having a drive through fair food feature so the younger people can experience that part of the fair.

Of course, as I grew older, I shied away from going to the event with my grandparents. That happens when youngsters become teenagers and want to explore the terrain on their own.

One of my favorite treats there was saltwater taffy. But I had to give up the treat when I kept losing fillings in my teeth.

In the 1960’s, sideshows were commonplace at the fair. I’m not sure they even exist today but they were quite common in the day. Back then, they were called freak shows.

 At one particular fair, three of my buddies and I came across a tent with a large painting on it that depicted a half man-half frog. Of course we had to check it out. So we slapped down a quarter apiece and proceeded into the tent. Inside, a normal fellow explained the wonder of the world we were about to see.

He brought out a box and exposed a physically challenged little man who obviously didn’t have any frog DNA in his body. He couldn’t talk and just pathetically stared out into the audience. None us guys ever went back to one of those displays.

But the kicker to the story happened an hour or so later when we went to the Hotel Ashtabula for dinner. As we were eating, the man from the freak show came in with the frogman and sat down near us and fed the frogman his dinner… a steak dinner.

One of my buddies who had a strange sense of humor said, “I thought frogs only ate flies.”

To this day, I am not sure if he really believed the poor soul was actually a frog man. And I don’t think I really want to know the answer to that question.

PATRICK WILLIAMS writes a weekly column for The Star Beacon. He can be reached at

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