Saying goodbye to Summer can be a difficult thing. With Fall quickly approaching, everyone is trying to squeeze in the last bits of fun in the sun. What better way to start this transition than a visit to a local carnival or state fair? Summer just wouldn’t seem complete without it.
Even in this technology driven age, families still flock to fairs. It’s a place where kids can get on rides without height restrictions, where teens bring their summer crushes, and for others wanting to have a nostalgic time. I fall in the last category and I adore everything the fair has to offer. The experience is like inexpensive time travel where one can relive feelings of childhood euphoria. There are many eccentric sights and sounds to behold!
Fair go-ers come from all walks of life. Everyone is welcomed and there is so much love all around. Size doesn’t matter. Tall people, tiny folks, and big people in hand-operated motorized chairs are treated equally. No shirt, no teeth, no problem. Try to count all the various versions of mullets and logo-screened tanktops. Anything goes and it’s all about the fun. See people dressed as sparkly clowns, cartoon mascots, Lord of the Rings characters and those who look like they’re in Tolkien costumes but aren’t. It’s an extremely diverse crowd.
The first thing one notices upon entrance pass the ticket booth is the scent of carnival food that permeates the air. The four basic food groups served are 1) Deep Fried 2) Sweet and sticky 3) BBQ-ed 4) Extra cold and frothy. Some all-American junk food prerequisites for an authentic fair are cotton candy, funnel cake, kettle corn, shaved ice, dippin’ dots, fried candy bars and onion blossom. It’s the only time where even the strictest dieters throw their junk food restrictions out the window.
Alongside the food booths are many interesting handicraft stands. Colorful friendship bracelets, magic wands covered in ribbons, flower wreaths, folk art, western belts and hats, buckles with horses and defunct automobile logos, rastafarian beanies with attached dreadlocks, personalized tees with names airbrushed inside a neon heart, homeopathic massage oils, figurines with intricate metalwork of medieval dragons and tiny warriors welded on gems, and crystal unicorns all belong here like one big happy family. Attendees can also get their face painted like a cat, have henna tattoos of undecipherable characters, and get portraits taken of themselves as gangsters and victorian ladies at a wildwest saloon. It’s a magical place where you can be anything you want!
Throughout the years, the products offered at fairs have greatly expanded. There are now large exhibition halls that showcase the latest and greatest in country cooking, household appliances and home accessories. There are enough varieties of homemade jams, sauces, preserved fruits, freeze-dried vegetables, and trail mix available to stash in your emergency food supply cabinet to last you many lifetimes over. There are also infomercial-like booths with Jack Lalanne lookalikes hawking their products in front of a live audience. Their demonstration skills are absolutely convincing. God only knows how much we need that amazing vegetable chopper, juicemixer, dipmaker, super absorbent rag, carpet stain remover, jacuzzi stimulator pump, shiney car wax, ______ (fill in the blank), etc.
Other exhibition halls feature arts and crafts submissions from all across the state. Every art project is a winner. As long as it’s made with bare hands, it’s awarded with a ribbon! There are patchwork quilts, deformed paper maches heads, dioramas made with discarded materials, miniature models glued together by toothpicks, and clothes woven from a loom. One wonders if they’ve just discovered a tomb of lost primitive treasures.
Out of all this activity, don’t forget to visit the carnival area where you can throw quarters on plates, pop balloons with waterguns, and throw shots into a hoop like a basketball champion. It’s all about demonstrating your old school skills. Winning the prizes are only secondary. In addition, the bright blinking lights and sounds of the environment transport us to another place, a long forgotten one. The best part is watching the little kids faces light up on the carousels, ferris wheels, and baby coasters – everyone’s having a great time.
Last but not least, the grand finale is getting tickets to whichever musician is playing that night in the concert series line-up. These performers are living legends and popular teen idols…of your grandparent’s time. Okay, I’m slightly exaggerating. They’re entertainers you waited long to see but were unable to (because you were an embryo) and finally can at a fraction of their original concert ticket price. These family friendly acts help us all bond together, despite what generation you fall into. As long as we’re all rocking, it’s all good.
Everyone goes home with something from the fair: a lot of laughs, quality time spent with loved ones, heartwarming smiles, and priceless memories to last until the next summer. Remember to make room in the car for that giant-sized teddybear…now if only you can recall where you parked hours ago in that huge dirt road lot.
Until next time. xoxo