PANORAMA - Holding onto something fair

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Ben Ribary, 6, holds onto a railing and waits with his sister Regan (left background), 8, to go with their family to the demolition derby.

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Fair goers drop from the sky while holding onto their seats.

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Frontier Days Princess Erin Giusti holds onto the reins as she gallops her horse and waves to the Fair crowds.

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Emily Skramstad, 8, holds onto her bungee straps while doing acrobatic flips at the Walla Walla Fair.

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Holding onto the traditions of job and community, retiring Sheriff Mike Humphreys, giving thumb-up, is honored during Sunday's rodeo finals.

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Holding onto the traditions of job and community, retiring Sheriff Mike Humphreys is honored by a parade of area law enforcement officers during Sunday's rodeo finals.

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Cheney cowboy Ryan Gray holds onto his ride.

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Married for more than 50 years, Co-Parade Marshalls Dave and Maralyn Carey hold onto one another while being driven around the rodeo arena.

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A cowboy holds hat over heart during the national anthem.

When you hang around something long enough - including the fair - you start to see trends.

Blue jeans, cowboy boots and hats and something more.

Patterns as to why we go.

Why we're drawn like moths to the dusty glow of the fairgrounds at night. Why the cascading sounds of carnival rides and a thousand conversations draw us back each year. Why smells of food and farm conjure memories so deeply seated in our collective past that we wonder if they're really our own memories or those of our ancestors, passed along like physical traits, only in the form of thoughts and feelings

Deja-vu moments.

Goosebumps.

Phantom perceptions that we cling to because they seem really important. And we can't let go.

Letting go would break the pattern, and we thrive on being pattern seekers. We seek comfort in the familiar face, the old haunts -the yearly events.

The timeless rituals of the season; summer and harvest.

In my wanderings at this year's Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days, I tried to see the obvious. I made a promise to see things more simply.

What appeared was a prevailing theme of attachment. We were holding onto something fair and wonderful.

Whether it was the 8-year-old generating his own topsy-turvy world of a carnival ride as he hung upside down, clinging effortlessly to a rail, or the cowboy holding his hat over his heart as the national anthem played - everywhere the camera clicked the theme held true.

The athleticism of the bareback rider, going sideways---almost letting go---but hanging on for a share of the championship.

The swift, vertical drop of a carnival ride, causing closed eyes, upraised legs and fairgoers to hold on for dear life.

The appreciation for a job well done---35 years of committment to a cause and a community as a county sheriff.

Or a relationship---co-parade marshalls celebrating a lifetime together---riding and waving their way through the downtown fair parade and around the rodeo arena at night.

Fair Court royalty holding onto the reins while charging their horses round and round.

Kids in safety harnasses shooting through the sky doing upside down acrobatics, hands holding tight and secure on the bungee cords to each side.

Every year the Fair comes and goes but even when it's gone it leaves something behind; a veritable tracing of where we've been and, maybe, an insight into the road that lies ahead.

If we look closely for that initial tracing we'll see a pattern to our heritage being told each year and, with it, a worthwhile answer to "Why?"

Traditions.

Just hold on tight.

And don't let go.

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