I rarely fare well at the fair,

So that is why I don't go there.

I do not mean to be gruff,

But it seems that's fair enough.

Tens of thousands of people look forward to enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Bloomsburg Fair every September. None of those people has to worry about me getting in the way of their fun since I haven't been at the fair since the Bearded Lady was too young to shave.

This was not always the case. My brothers, sister and I always eagerly anticipated the fall event when we were kids with an autumnal enthusiasm usually reserved for Halloween and its candy.

I don't know if our parents shared this same excitement since they had to keep an eye on us at all times. Otherwise, they might turn around to see that I was trying to ride one of the cows or sample the entries in the jelly-jarring competition.

This all stemmed from our first fair trip in which our folks caught my brothers and me looking for something to carve an 800-pound pumpkin into a king-sized jack-'o-lantern.

At least we were properly warmed up for walking around the fairgrounds. Since you had to pay to park at the fair or on private property near the event, Dad usually parked a mile or so away.

This meant we hit the fair gates in full stride, but faced a return walk with all the enthusiasm of a prisoner being taken to death row.

Growing up watching countless TV westerns, we kids were hankering for a firsthand view of some of the animals we had only seen on our black-and-white console TV.

Fortunately, there were no buffalo being exhibited in the livestock areas. The real-life cows and pigs were much more intimidating than their 4-inch-tall versions on TV, so I really didn't want to run into an animal that was even bigger.

(Even the sheep were a bit scary.)

Of course, the aroma of the barns and their stalls added a whole new element to the livestock experience. The closest we came to that odor in our house was the time when a hard-boiled Easter egg wasn't found until three years after it was hidden.

The demolition derby was more of an attraction to me. It was like watching bumper cars that ran into each other at 30 mph. While we kids enjoyed it, the looks on the faces of Mother and Dad told us that they didn't. They were undoubtedly calculating how many years it would be until I - and then my younger siblings - would get our driver's licenses.

One year, our parents splurged and bought us tickets to the grandstand show featuring country western singer Jimmy Dean, who sang his hit song "Big, Bad John."

That was still years before Jimmy Dean came out with a line of breakfast sausages, but, for some reason, whenever I hear Jimmy singing "Big, Bad John" on the radio, I have to take a Tums.

Even though the Bloomsburg Fair is bigger and better than ever, it holds little attraction for me.

While you can get a delicious and relatively nutritious meal, most of the stands hold nothing but temptation. The primary enticement to bad eating would be the deep-fried places.

You can pretty much pick anything to be deep-fried - from pickles to cupcakes.

I would give in to curiosity to see what a deep-fried Zagnut candy bar would taste like. Then I would spend the rest of the night thinking I would have been better off just rubbing Crisco shortening on my chest.

But I think the biggest factor that has kept me from showing up at the last 40 or so Bloomsburg Fairs is the crowd.

My aversion to moving around in crowds can be seen in my habit of doing my Christmas shopping in early August. (Of course, that's when I buy the presents for the previous Christmas, but the principle is still the same.)

That last time I was in a big-time crowd was when my wife Jo Ann and I spent a day in New York with my brother Phil and his wife Helen.

I remember stepping out from a restaurant onto a sidewalk and being swept away by a virtual white-water river of people. Fortunately, I got pushed into a mailbox two blocks away and was able to hang on until my wife, brother and sister-in-law caught up to me.

From firsthand accounts of the fair crowds, I think the New York experience would be very likely to recur. I doubt that I would be lucky enough to find a mailbox that I could hold onto if that should happen.

With my luck, I would wind up holding onto a deep-fried food stand.

I'm not saying I would never return to the Bloomsburg Fair. Maybe when I retire, I could get there early in the morning before the crowd arrives.

If I do, I plan on bringing a knife to keep a belated jack-'o-lantern date with an 800-pound pumpkin.

What the heck! I might even have a piece of deep-fried pumpkin pie.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)