Each night this week when I've walked out of our local fitness center I've seen the top of a Ferris wheel over the courthouse. This is not usual.
Our community has a weeklong festival every year that draws in the usual carnival games, some merchandise booths, community groups raising funds and some mid-level musical acts for free concerts. It's placed in the town square surrounding the courthouse, blocking a state highway and creating a headache for the square's businesses. Some of them just close for the week.
It's not everyone's favorite week, because of the re-routing and other inconveniences. But I love it, and I love it because I can see a Ferris wheel behind the courthouse at night. It reminds me that summer's starting, which is our busy season as we are near a recreational lake. And that for the next three months, our insulated, inward-looking and somewhat myopic little burg will have some different people in it who don't try to cling to its highlight days of the 1980s and 90s. Since I wasn't here then, I enjoy the presence of these alien viewpoints and the chance to encounter them now and again.
The festival is also something that clumps townspeople at a common location in a way nothing else does. Despite our small population, we manage to be much more a group of silos than a shared community, except this week. And it's fun to stroll it a little bit. The low-level rides and carny games are a small-town middle-schooler's dream -- they can roam in packs with their friends, wire themselves out of their minds on sugar and test-drive their social interactions without supervision of either parents or teachers.
Tonight's the last night, so when I leave the gym tomorrow evening no Ferris wheel will light the sky behind the courthouse and the square will be empty except for the usual sparse nighttime traffic. It will be much more convenient -- and less alive. But the summer will last awhile still.