Sunday, November 3, 2013

At The State Fair, It's The Little Things

From Sunday's Times and News-Star

You still have time to take a little person to the State Fair.

Most of us have had some highs and lows in the Fair arena. The lows tend to dominate your thinking as you get older. Maybe it was a night haunted by rude people. A bad parking sport. Poor weather. The guy guessing your weight overshot the runway by about 40 pounds.

“Do these corn dogs make me look fat?”
A personal low: My interview, for the newspaper, with The Headless Woman. Toughest quote to get of my career.

But my favorite memory is so top-shelf that I can’t remember with clarity any “bad” time I might have ever had at the Fair. My son was almost 3, and on the icebox a magnet holds a photo of him sitting on a hay bale by the petting zoo, a smile on his face and goat poop on the bottom of his Nike.

Those were the Salad Days. And that was the first trip of a few. And that first trip was 21 years ago.

A note from Cousin Other reminded me of all that, made me hope that older folk jaded by grownup things would remember that to a little one, the Fair is lights and sounds and Oz. To a Fair veteran, it might be crowds or noise or wondering whether the same guy who invented the guillotine invented the Tilt-A-World. But it’s all new and wonder and dreaming in color to a little one.

Other said it best in his note:

Took my granddaughter, Abbey, to the Fair last night.
Just me and her.
It was dollar-night so all rides were $1 each.
She's 8, almost 9, and tall enough to ride everything.
I'm much older and haven't ridden anything in years.
Nevertheless, we wore out the token dispensers buying ride coinage.
There were the traditional Ferris wheel-bumper car-fun house options.
But also an endless selection of Scrambler-Octopus knockoffs.
Different names and lights and music but basically the same ride.
You know, a two-seat compartment freewheeling at the end of one of several rotating stems.
So you spin and twist and jerk and bump and rise and fall for about three minutes.
And Abbey, convinced they were each unique, wanted to do them all.
Do that for about half a dozen rides in a row.
I dare you.
On a full stomach of fair food.
But I held my own and my food.
However it was not dollar-night at the concession booths.
Far from it.
And Abbey had a "homework assignment" to sample specific fair foods.
Supposedly Old Lady Huggins told the third-graders they "had to" have:
Jumbo Corn Dog ($6)
Lemonade ($6)
Cinnamon Roll ($6)
Notice the pattern.
Everything was six bucks.
Even the large order of curly fries we shared was $6.
(Not part of the assignment, but a personal favorite.)
When we came to the pineapple whip ice cream for only $3, I couldn't get my money out fast enough.
And there were several places offering generous cups of sweet tea for only 75 cents.
I was almost too embarrassed to buy one.
We were also able to squeeze in a few side shows and freebies.
Big tortoise, small pig, camels and horses and llamas trotting in circles.
And Abbey fed carrots to the (selfish) giraffe.
All things considered, it was time, if not money, well spent.
I'd do it again.

If I could go back 21 years, so would I.