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Tribune Staff

It just wouldn't be fair to miss the fair again with all its fare. It's almost a sin to miss out on the nostalgic delights the Park County Fair offers. It's a smorgasbord of sensory pleasures — the sights, sounds and smells. Who isn't taken back to a simpler time by the teasing smell of cotton candy, chili dogs and goat dung wafting from the 4-H pens?

Fairs, carnivals and Las Vegas are our brief flights from monotonous reality. Only on certain pre-destined occasions can one indulge to gross excess with none of the normal repercussions.

God in his mercy decreed Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, Labor Day and county fairs shall be exempt from caloric concerns. “And God said, ‘Let there be Corn Dogs.' And He saw that it was good.” (Genesis 50:27).

County fairs are also quite safe, but the fair's dysfunctional nephew, the carnival … now that's a greased pig of a different color.

Remember the movie “The Jerk,” where a naïve Navin Johnson suddenly realizes in his early 20s he's not black and his sharecropper family had adopted him? He hitchhikes to the city and lands a job as a carnival weight guesser. After a rough start, he nearly perfects his sales pitch, “Step right up folks; let the weight guesser guess your weight. Fool the guesser and win some crap.”

But the dark carnival underbelly snarls when Patty, the psycho, motorcycle stuntwoman, leads Navin back to her trailer and unconventionally guesses his weight. His innocence was lost that day; that trailer was a rockin' and his child-like squeal of, “Wow, this is just like a carnival ride!” reverberated throughout the grounds.

That classic movie, called by some “The greatest story ever told,” is one for another day. But I know from personal experience the shady side of carnivals. I went to my first one during my first summer in Cody at 16. My brother Jess and wife Marti were between homes, so lived in a big house on Alger Avenue with church friends, Larry and Lucille Moerike.

The Moerikes often took troubled youth into their home, and a wild young teen named Dave also resided there that summer. Dave and I had little in common, except we were both young and were made to go to church with the Moerikes. One Sunday afternoon, Dave invited me to walk to the carnival with him.

After quaffing a couple snow cones, we found ourselves sitting in a caged cubicle to be spun by hard-boiled carnies before rotating skyward like a ferris wheel. Noticing our brake was non-functional, Dave says to the operator with an air of arrogance, “Hey man, don't spin our cage; it's broke!” “Oh, you no want spin cage, huh? O-o-ookay…” this heavily-tattooed Spanish fellow said sarcastically as he spun the cage so long and hard, he probably has rotator cuff problems to this day.

During our third, torturous go-around — while dangling upside down at the top of the arc — Dave prepared me for battle. “You ready to fight when we get out of here?”

Fight? Me? Heck, I was just a sweet Pennsylvania boy that wanted to play baseball, drink A&W Root Beer, and maybe sneak a Playboy into Moerikes' house occasionally. I had never drank, smoked, or even had my weight guessed. I was a wiry rassler, but the closest thing to a real punch fight I'd been in was a slap-fight with my older sister, which I lost. And now I'm gonna stagger off this ride, probably vomit violently, and throw hands with hairy, sweaty older men, the likes of which I'd previously only seen in prison movies?

“Fight? Ummm; yeah … I guess …” I meekly replied to my new, hardened friend fresh from reform school. As predicted, I nearly fell on my face on the ramp, and finally steadied long enough to notice Dave and this spinner thug were nose-to-nose. I staggered towards them and two other irritable carnie goons stopped me. One jerked off his glasses, stared only inches from my eyes, and asked, “Is this the **!!* giving you all the !!**?” (a few more expletives I wasn't familiar with.)

Thankfully, the wrath was directed back at Dave, who was now threatening to round up “some of our buddies” to meet in City Park for a rumble. The carnies must have been on break, 'cause they enthusiastically agreed. Next thing I knew, I'm lagging behind a group of about 10 big Cody boys Dave had probably met “at camp,” walking towards about a dozen Hispanic fellows. It was West Side Story, but there was to be no dancing.

I was never so happy for a police presence in my life when they intervened and sent everyone packing. As I told Dave later, “Them cats was lucky. I was on the wrestling team in junior high.”

So this week, I'm fairly sure I'll make it to the fair. It's so much safer than the amusement parks of yesteryear. Heck, I might even get wild and have me some funnel cake.

Reconsider the I-80 toll

Earlier this month, a Wyoming roadway was closed partially after its pavement deteriorated so quickly that it necessitated emergency repairs.

Though the deteriorating pavement — on a section of Interstate 80 between Rawlins and Laramie — is far removed from Powell's road system, highways in our area may soon face similar plights.

With worsening highway conditions statewide, Wyoming Department of Transportation crews are struggling to keep up.

“The bottom line is that state roadways are deteriorating at a faster rate than we have the ability to fix based on current revenue,” said WYDOT District Engineer Jay Gould, in a recent press release.

He cautioned that Wyoming residents will see more situations where roads are closed for emergency repairs, especially on heavily-traveled interstates.

More than 6,800 miles of roadways wind through Wyoming. Each stretch requires regular maintenance, but funding for upkeep is scarce. In the last budget session, the Legislature reduced the department's money for highway construction by $150 million from the previous biennium.

Those funding woes are compounded by the expiration of the Federal Aid Highway Program in September 2009. Federal highway funding currently is being distributed under continuing resolutions, which limit the department's ability to do long-term planning.

Wyoming's current situation — dwindling budgets and deteriorating roadways — signals the need for a new approach to fund highway maintenance.

State leaders should reconsider a toll for I-80.

The frequented interstate sees around 13,000 vehicles daily, with heavy trucks accounting for half of that traffic. The wear and tear of a single heavy truck is equivalent to that of 400 cars, according to WYDOT.

Over the next 30 years, maintenance for Wyoming's 400 mile-stretch of I-80 is estimated to cost $6.4 billion. Yes, that's a staggering figure — in fact, it exceeds the total of revenue projected to be available for maintaining Wyoming's entire highway system, according to an I-80 tolling study.

Though the recent tolling study conveyed the steep costs Wyoming faces in maintaining I-80, state legislators voted against the tolling concept earlier this year. The tolling issue may remain dormant for now, but the cost of fixing deteriorating highways certainly is not.

State legislators, and Wyoming's next governor, must consider how to keep the state's roadways safe and well maintained — even if it means imposing a toll for I-80.

(Feb. 26, 1955 - July 17, 2010)

Duane Allen Taylor, 55, died Saturday, July 17, at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Graveside services for Sandra D. Folkerts of Billings will be at 11 a.m. Friday, July 30, at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Billings.

Marjorie E Diehl, 91, died July 25, 2010, at Powell Valley Care Center. Services are pending, and a full obituary will follow in the Thursday Powell Tribune.

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A gangling grizzly bear nicknamed “Circus Bear” runs along Mary Bay in Yellowstone National Park last week. The bear got his nickname for his unusual features — long, funny ears, a skinny body, extra long legs and hair missing around his eyes, said photographer Neale Blank, who took this photo from about 50 yards away. His features “aren't characteristic of a grizzly.” Circus Bear is about 10-12 years old and frequently roams the area around Mary Bay, Blank said. Courtesy photo/Neale Blank

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Pine beetles plague ‘important' tree species

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider listing the beetle-embattled whitebark pine as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, thanks to a December 2008 Natural Resources Defense Council petition.

But that does not mean listing is a slam dunk.

West Park Hospital is encouraging Powell residents to learn more about its modernization project at a pair of meetings in coming weeks.

On July 28 and Aug. 3, West Park staff and elected trustees will present information and answer questions about proposed upgrades to the Cody hospital. Both upcoming presentations will be held in Fagerberg Room 70 at Northwest College. The presentation on the 28th is scheduled from 3-5 p.m., while the presentation on the 3rd is slated for 5:30-7 p.m.

Antique hunters with the television program “American Pickers” are scouting out the Powell region and may soon scour local yards, garages, sheds and barns for unique treasures.

“People may think it's just junk, but these guys know what they're looking for,” said Gina Vogel with the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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Sheridan's Skyler Holwell delivers a pitch to home plate in the opening game of the 2010 Wyoming Babe Ruth state championship tournament. The event runs through Saturday afternoon in Powell. Tribune photo by Kara Bacon

Powell all-star team hopes to defend title

In the end, there can be only one.

Eight 15-year-old Babe Ruth baseball teams descended upon Powell on Wednesday to begin state tournament play. The competition will run through Saturday afternoon, with the winner earning a spot in the Pacific Northwest regional tournament, to be played later this summer in Klamath Falls, Ore.

Page 483 of 514

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