I knew covering the Canfield Fair was going to be a challenge from the moment I pulled in the gate off Fairground Boulevard Wednesday morning.
Two seasoned parkers manned the media entrance and one immediately asked to see my parking pass, which was not properly glued to my windshield.
"What did you do? Make this yourself?" the attendant boomed as I handed over the pink paper with "Gate 3" emblazoned in red ink.
"No. They gave it to me," I answered in dumbfounded confusion.
"Who gave it to you?" the attendant demanded. "Where did you get this?"
"The Vindicator. It came in this envelope," I said, showing him the shredded Vindicator envelope I'd ripped open on my way in the gate.
"It came with this," I added, showing him my media pass and hoping it would convince him that my parking permit was legitimate and I wasn't trying to crash the gate.
No such luck.
"Pull over here," he said, motioning for me to pull to the side.
"I should call the police. This is definitely illegal. You're not allowed to do this."
Oh, no. My heart sank.
I swear to God I didn't counterfeit that pass.
I don't want to go to jail.
After scrutinizing my parking pass another time, looking at me in my Vindicator staff writer T-shirt and examining my media pass, the attendant pointed out what was wrong. There were supposed to be two strips of last-forever glue on the front of the pass so that I could affix it to the windshield for the life of my car.
"I'll let you in today but I'll have to find out about this. You can't park here tomorrow with that," the attendant huffed as he directed me to a parking space right under his nose.
My colleague, who had the foresight to tape his parking pass to his windshield making the missing glue strips less noticeable, had no problem getting in. Our photographers, who arrived in bright orange company cars, weren't as lucky, however.
The first to arrive still had last year's sticker stuck on his windshield. (I'm not surprised. Once the glue is stuck, it stays.)
As he pulled through the gate, the attendant told him about my counterfeit pass.
Amused, the photographer pulled out his 2002 parking pass.
It, too, was missing glue.
The photographer got the lecture, too. Park here today, but you're not getting past the gate tomorrow.
When photographer No. 2 arrived, the parking attendant's lecture was flawless.
Luckily, the fair board gave us new passes -- with glue -- when we told them about our dilemma. It seems the printer made a mistake on a whole batch of parking permits. (Maybe the machine that applies the glue got gummed up.)
Things look up
After getting the OK on the new passes from the parking attendant, it was smooth sailing through the rest of the fair. The weather was great, and opportunities for interesting stories and good pictures were plentiful.
I even got a couple of special surprises no one could have planned: a ride to the top of a 102-foot ladder truck, compliments of Austintown Fire Department; a mug full of useful recipes, pencils and other good stuff from two Junior Fair boys -- Chet Pigeon and Josh Koon, both of Salem -- who did a great job exhibiting their poultry projects; and a kiss on the cheek from Robert Nick, an Eagle Scout from Troop 3 in Austintown. (No one has ever been that happy to talk to me before.)