By Conor Rochon
Imagine a lawless night when the order of society is temporarily put on hold and people are free to act out their most debauched fantasies. When the streets are filled with violence and carnal desire, and citizens give in to their impulses and act in accordance with more bestial natures. Does this sound like the premise of a bad slasher movie? Well yes, that’s exactly what happens in the forgettable home-invasion flick The Purge, but in my hometown we had our own night of suspended morals. We called it The Fair.
Every September, the Agricultural Society would take it upon itself to spread horse poop around the big field in the centre of town. Skeevy characters were contracted to operate the rickety death traps they called rides, and stalls selling greasy food were trucked in to feed visitors. All around the shit-field people sat at card tables hawking knockoff watches and selling knives to kids who were too young to cross the street unsupervised.
The Fair was a tiny version of Vegas in the middle of our quiet bedroom community, and everyone showed up to take part. For the whole weekend the noise from the midway would rule the town. Children tossed into the middle of the mess would run around the midway on a sugar high, get separated from their parents, throw up, find their parents, and do it all over again. The adults spent their time gambling with bingo and raffle tickets, while the youth bet on rigged carnival games. Everyone would eat him- or herself sick, and everyone would claim to have a good time. Eventually, the day at The Fair would push into night—and then drunken teenagers would show up.
The high school was a 15-minute walk from the fairgrounds. On the first Friday of The Fair, anyone watching the school buses arrive could be forgiven for thinking this was an ordinary day, but in fact no classes would be held. A decision made not by the school board, but by the majority of the student body, who had no plans to attend. Most kids would get off the bus, turn away from the school entrance, disappear into the woods, and start drinking.
At around nine o’clock, an army of wasted teens would descend on the fairground. With water bottles filled with vodka stuffed in purses and jacket pockets, they sauntered past the front gate earning a stern look from the old farmer stamping tickets, and an even sterner one from the officer keeping the peace. Some kids would be turned away, but since no one is more resourceful than a drunk teenager, those poor few would sneak onto the grounds one way or another.
The first stop for most of these delinquents was the demolition derby. It was at the back of the fairgrounds, far enough from the midway that they could feel a little less exposed while sipping their “water,” and watching cars explode. After the dust had settled, the well-sloshed teens would make their way back out to the midway to mingle with peers who were leaving the dance (and the dance’s beer tent). There would be laughter, rides, and deep-fried snacks. The entire student body coming together under the blinking lights of the Starship 3000— and then someone would get punched in the face.
Turns out violence is a natural side effect of liquoring up hormonal adolescents and gathering them all in a hyper-stimulating space— who’da thunk it? The initial face punching would spark several more brawls, and often a stabbing. The Fair would close and let loose a wave of amoral vandals, spreading graffiti and firecrackers across town. For one night a year, Main Street would look a bit like the Byward Market after the bars close, except everyone is younger and dumber, and there are more cops. Sirens would howl throughout the town and arrests would be made. The hoodlums would eventually slink off to the houses of friends or the basements of mothers to sleep off the drunk. Come morning everyone would seem to forget the whole thing ever happened. Mothers, fathers, old gramps and grannies, all would make their way to Main Street and watch the parade. The teens would stay home and battle their hangovers.
And the agricultural society would start getting ready to do it all again next year.