“The Great South-Eastern Fair”





Back in 1973 I went out to the fair grounds in Atlanta where every year they held “The Great South-Eastern Fair”. It was one of those days when everything sort of went right photographically. I shot only one roll of Tri-X and when I processed that one roll of film I liked just about every shot. That’s a rare thing. That’s a special day.


It was a large midway with plenty of rides. Atlanta had a fairly large wooden roller coaster back then. Nothing like Coney Island or the huge hang-beneath twisters of today, but enough to give you a thrill. I went on a Sunday morning, before the fair was open. I wanted the feel of the fair without the lights and the noise and the crowds.


There were a few people about that day. The guy with the wooden leg, the black woman sweeping the driveway, the souvenir man, the cook having one more cigarette before firing up the grill, and of course, the prisoner chain gang. There were kids playing inside the public restroom building and a few people tending to animals in the farm sheds. But the midways were like a boarded up ghost town. A village that would spring back into life with the chime of the noon clock. In just a matter of hours, you’d be elbow to elbow with thousands of other people. But for now, it was ghostly quiet.


It must be a really hard life. Long hours, small pay, trying night after night to get people to stop and pay money to play games that look easy but are designed to help you loose. To win a stuffed animal for a girl friend or small child. The lights and bang and clatter of the rides, the hiss of the hydraulics and rumbling of the generators. Watching people pass time after time looking for something a little more thrilling, while selling, coaxing, goading them into letting go of one more dollar. Every night for two weeks, rain or shine, then tear it all down and drive it somewhere else, only to do it all over again. A gypsy life in a caravan of amusement and fast food and con games and freaks..............


I walked through the midways and thought about the sideshows, the people born with deformities and the performers of the odd and bizarre. How does a girl “go ape”? How can a person hammer nails into their head? Realities of life! Born Backwards! What would these lives be like if they had not joined a freak show?.............


George Cannon


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