The “Golden” Prize at the County Fair

As a child growing up in Alamo, harvest season signaled families throughout the area to pile into station wagons for the annual trek to the Allegan County Fair, where food, rides and attractions attacked our senses in delightful chaotic fashion. Over the course of the evening, our family would inevitably end up at The Mouse Game, a popular arcade game featuring a live mouse that would be dropped onto a horizontal spinning wheel outfitted with a multitude of numbered holes. As the (I’m sure, terrified) mouse ducked into hole #12, the winning player would then choose from a colorful collection of cheap stuffed animals hanging overhead. 

But these mice weren’t the only animals put to work for our amusement. Across the way was another game, this one featuring live goldfish packaged in plastic baggies and given away as “prizes,” likely to be flushed down the toilet by parents two days later after finding Timmy’s prize sitting at the bottom of the bowl serving as a makeshift aquarium. 

The Mouse Game has long passed, so as I sat on a bench this past weekend at the county fair with my niece, I was surprised to see a young boy walk by, clutching that familiar glowing orange baggie.

While the world today is recognizing the fact that animals don’t belong in traveling shows, it appears that we have overlooked the antiquated act of giving away live goldfish as prizes. It’s time for “Win a Goldfish” to join The Mouse Game as a childhood memory of yesteryear. 

By Heidi McCrary, author of “Chasing North Star,” available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Well, the woman in the foreground is interesting…

Long before I was born, the barn we played in was originally the Alamo Valley Creamery, owned by our grandparents, and the largest employer in Alamo in 1897. There are very few photos of the creamery, however, with a simple Google search, we happened upon this… A painting by Post-Modernist artist, Richard Allen George (Illinois/Ohio 1935-1990).       

This original work depicts The Alamo Valley Creamery. In the foreground, a shapely nude woman in stiletto heels can be seen feeding chickens from a bucket while coverall clad dairy farmers look on in the distance. The work is rendered in a palette of muted neons and is signed in lower right. The artwork sold for $1,910.00.