Willshire Days was most action small town Ohio could fit in two acres. While that rarely included more than three rides, everyone in the area came out. There were games and sales persons. Farmers, Amish (even though farmers they’re different), a handful of city folk (like me) and relatives. In a town of six hundred, it was a week festival that had to make up for rest of the year.
First it would help to describe the town. Twist the letter “X” and stretch it out. Make one side truck route and other rural route, now pin it against the state of Indiana. There is a water tower and an “L” shaped downtown with two story buildings. The center is, of course, the fire station and library. Every small town needs both.
It all started with Friday night flea market. The main street was lined with card tables, loaded with resale bargains. Aunt Clara would sell animal magnets made out of shells and pipe cleaners. They all looked the same, painted different colors but looked like the skunk. Rugs braided from bread wrappers. Wooden things that held no interest to a kid. Everyone knew if you were local or related to someone living here.
Friday night they would open up the rides in the park, two streets away. This was one ticket for a ride. Jungle Jim’s, Scrambler, Octopus, maybe the Rotor, The rides never went more than ten feet off the ground but it didn’t matter. There would be “barkers” calling you to their game of chance. The prizes were goldfish, stuffed animals, mirrors with band names on them, stuff you win, not ever buy. I got to be a barker one year. The bottle stand is damn near impossible. Not saying the games are fixed, but divine intervention maybe required.
For three days and nights, Willshire was the place to be. Times change. Small towns lose the people as jobs move further away. Young people chase jobs to bigger cities. Willshire Days withers on the vine. It’s been gone ten years. Maybe if you remember, it’s not really gone. Just a ghost in time.