Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The County Fair.

As American as an eagle eating an apple pie, the county fair has long been a staple of the rural dweller. The annual haaj takes place in the usual fashion--once landed in the sea of semi-orderly dirt parking lots, we follow the wafting smells of manure and sweet fried things. Folks in cowboys boots and bedazzled jeans fall into step with us on our trek to the almighty gates where some geriatric Kiwanis member, adorned in all their polyester glory,  smiles, whisps away a day's income, stamps out hands (and for the kids, two), and then smiles again.

The gates would seem to suggest some unparallelled heaven awaiting on the other side. I use the term "heaven" here subjectively.

In an instant, the children multiply exponentially and vanish into the shiny, blingy, plastic ambiance. The smarter of the parents tether their children with ropes or leashes. I prefer the sleeker, more effective mode of child-homing known as the wallet.

The wallet contains many features. It offers the promise of greasy treats and raffles and cotton candy. Guaranteed the younglings will not journey out too far from pocket.

The fair itinerary appears to follow some collective modus operandi. Animals first, then food, then rides. Elephant ears are frowned upon in the petting zoo by all but the goats. We arrive as a herd at the barn doors and are ushered in two by two where we are lead through a series of gates and chutes and aisles.  The moo's and baaah's of the animals as they watch us go by compliment the "ooh" and "awww" from the people viewers quite well, though in this perspective, it is not quite certain who is really the observed.

I have never really gotten the hang of the stall walk, that shuffle, shuffle, stop we all do. This usually leads to a bit of awkward bumping into folks and apologizing.  I always end up bumping into an old friend accidentally and we smile and ask how the kids are and then politely depart never having remembered eachother's names.

We all breathe gratefully at the barn door. The sweltering scent of poultry or livestock isn't the most pleasant--especially on the fifth day of the fair. The kids jump and giggle, elbow-deep in cow/horse/goat/pig hair, dander, and filth and are immediately famished.

I do not understand why the desire to eat coincides with carnival rides. To me it seems a bit counterproductive. Nevertheless, the ride tickets and the deep-fried chili-dogs are neighbors.

All of the rides move in a circular fashion is nothing new. Carnivals have been inducing nausea to countless thrill-seekers for over a century. The differences between each ticket-sucking beast is purely nuance.
Here are my favorite rides I noticed at the fair:
1) The Tip-Top (2 tickets). This device resembles a rusted cake with Easter-egg accents. The Easter eggs tip ever so slightly while they spin, swivel AND gyrate.
2)The Sizzler (3 tickets). This one, though it only spins with two moveable axes, comes with the velocity needed for those cool emo haircuts those kids used to wear. It also is a wonderful source for irrepairable neck damage.
3)Round Up (3 tickets). This is the ride where you are strapped to the wall and thanks to centrifugal force, you and your stomach contents are completely flattened.
4)The Tornado (3 tickets). This one is cyclical hell without a foothold. Not that I was witness, but I'm guessing that this ride comes with the widest projectile rate.
5) The Ferris Wheel (3 tickets). If it weren't for my latent trust issues with carnival ride operators, I might have taken this one. Well, that and the fact that the fella usually says "don't rock the seat" every time he buckles you into a seat that rocks. I just don't get it.
6)The funhouse (2 tickets). I can only imagine what has taken place in the funhouse after hours.

The odd thing about the fair is that you return home exhausted, penniless, and stomach content-less. The only token of the fair is a smeared stamp that was previously a cow and now has morphed into some twisted Rorschach and one lonely ticket.

The fair has no use for one single ticket. No. They come in sets of two or three or more.  The single ticket simply goes unnoticed and unnused and sits in your pocket as a reminder that simply one ticket is no good until it ends up a purple grub in your dryer's lint catcher.

But the lasting impressions on the children's faces make up for everything. They fill their Monday's with stories about eating the most cotton candy and other stories about the bright blue stain on the car's carpet. These are lasting....until next fair.

Photos smuggled from Oregon History Project and Reverbnation.

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