When I was a little girl, my second favorite place in the world was the Indiana State Fair. It may have surpassed Disney World if they had had princesses handing out corndogs.

The fair had everything a child could dream of. Sugar, metal objects that spun you in circles, stuffed cartoon characters that my dad might win me, and animals that leaned into me when I pet them.

I loved it there.

My family had participated in fair activities while I was growing up, and I happily remember sharing elephant ears with my grandfather and getting nauseous on spinny rides. One time, as my 10-year-old memory recalls it, my cousin’s cow even sat on my lap.

The fair has always brought back these pleasant memories from the time I walked in and smelled my first pork sandwich, but this year it didn’t.

Maybe it was because I was disappointed in Indiana this year. Or because my stomach can’t handle the greasy fried Oreos and lemon shakeups anymore. Yet I could have just felt sad that day.

I don’t know what it was exactly, but I knew it bummed me out. I walked up and down the concrete streets of the fair past, the food vendors dodged some sort of animal feces on the way to the barns and even saw a man in a black and white striped jumpsuit do strength tricks.

I contemplated buying a ticket to go on the Ferris wheel, but I stared at the mechanics for too long.

I’m just too old for this, I thought to myself.

I wandered into the air-conditioned barn that smelled the best. I found a bench and sat down.

Across from me were the sheep that I had seen earlier when I had started my venture at the fair. Their names were Dottie and Doris. I decided to refer to the darker one as Dottie because she had a couple of spots on her.

Kids scooted by in wagons and waved at them, a teenage girl leaned over the cage and shot pictures of them, and an older man with a cane leaned up against the fence and smiled down on them.

The sheep didn’t do much to entertain their guests. They continuously munched on hay, so much I worried that they would get sick, and at times, they’d jump on the fence and peek over to see what was going on.

They didn’t seem to mind being enclosed for hours in their green cage. In fact, they almost seemed to like it. When someone would kneel down to their eye level, they’d stick their cute heads through the holes of the fence and soak up the attention.

The only sign of discontent I saw was when the third person in a row chose to pet Dottie instead of Doris. Doris came up to the fence and pooped marbles in protest.

I became jealous of the adults who were enjoying the fair. I am only 22, complaining about being too old, when there is a man with a cane enjoying himself.

What is wrong with me?

I went back up to the cage, without my notebook this time, and crouched down. Doris came to me and laid her head against my hand. She felt as soft as a new carpet, and her willingness to trust me made my heart warm. A little boy came up beside me, and Dottie poked her head out for him.

I realized the reason I loved the fair when I was a little kid was that I took the moments for what they were. It wasn’t all about the sugar on an elephant’s ear, it was about bonding with my grandfather. It wasn’t about the rides, it was about the fun and connection with my friends. It wasn’t about the cow “sitting” on my lap, it was about feeling close to animals.

Feeling that connection to how I was raised and where I come from is a beautiful thing and why people love the Indiana State Fair.

Thank you, Dottie and Doris, for reconnecting me with my Hoosier’s heart.