Friday, October 21, 2005

Goin' to the State Fair

Yesterday my parents and I went to the State Fair.

It was so much fun! The weather was pretty warm, which made it a little more strenuous, and it was pretty crowded for a Thursday. That’s probably because it was canned food day, where if you brought four cans you got in free. They had to be Food Lion brand, so we made a special trip to get 12 cans. Cost us about ten bucks. Pretty good deal.

The parking situation was not ideal. The fairgrounds are pretty centrally located in the city, and right after we got off the freeway we saw a sign for free parking but passed it by because it seemed really far from the fair itself and we didn’t know if there was a shuttle or anything. We continued on and kept passing by places that said “Parking $10.” We pulled into a place that appeared to normally sell stone (as in, for fireplaces and such) but during the fair turns into an ad hoc parking lot. The sign said “Parking,” with no price, so we thought maybe it was free. No such luck. Ten bucks. Oh, well. We did save eight on admission, so I guess it evens out.

It was somewhat of a trek to the nearest gate, normally not a big deal, but with the sun blazing down on us, we all started to sweat from the get go. We bought water pretty quickly, only a buck, so that was nice.

We saw the livestock first. Lots of prizewinning cattle of all different breeds. Cows are so cute. It’s a shame people eat them. The females all seemed to be really bony, with ribs and hip bones sticking out, but they won prizes so I guess that’s how they’re supposed to look. The males, on the other hand, were positively ginormous, just these big monstrous beasts--no bones showing there. All the better to make good steaks, I guess. I tried not to use a flash as much as possible but sometimes it was too dark and I had to. Some areas had babies, with their birthdates posted above them. Aww.

We’d arrived right around lunch time so after the livestock we washed our hands (tons of warnings everywhere about washing your hands) and had lunch. The parents had hot dogs and I had a slice of cheese pizza. I could have had a “giant turkey leg” but I didn’t feel like gnawing on an animal bone after seeing the cute cows and plus, I wanted to save room for’s why.

I’d read about the legendary deep fried treats, and was excited to partake. You could have funnel cake, or elephant ears(!)--basically funnel cake dough but in a slab, not all lacy--but I opted for...get this...a deep fried Snickers! And my dad ordered the deep fried Twinkie!! Both resembled corn dogs with powdered sugar on them, but the dough was sweet, not savory.

Both were very tasty, but my vote has to go with the Snickers. In theory, a deep fried Twinkie sounds great. But in practice, the stick goes up the center into the gooey filling, which proceeds to liquefy during the frying process, thereby giving the stick very little to embed itself in. All the filling pools at the bottom of the Twinkie, and so each bite is not a uniform deep-fried-snack-cake eating experience. The Snickers, however, while it also melts, is still structurally sound, and every bite is full of tasty Snickers goodness. Highly recommended for a once-a-year indulgence!

I had never been to a state or county fair (at least that I recall) and I learned the basics right away. Fairs are 70% food, 20% games and rides, and 10% livestock and produce. The rides were not appealing to us, having just eaten, the games are a waste of money (sorry, I’m a spoilsport), we’d seen the livestock, so we went for the produce. HUGE pumpkins and watermelons, nice looking apples, yams, squash, etc.

People also submit honey for competition, and there was a bee exhibit with what looked like a big bee farm (a la an ant farm)

and then also a guy standing in a mesh cage with a bunch of bees. Brave. In the corner, incongruously, was the presidential section, I guess. They had a Jackie Kennedy dress, a Dolley Madison dress, a replica of Reagan’s limo, and, the piece de la resistance, a photo shoot area set up to look like the oval office, complete with a big cut out of George W. Bush, which you could pay $5 to have your picture taken with.

Next was the Noah’s Ark exhibit where we came across more cows, as well as sheep, turkeys, and pigs.

Bunnies were in a building all their own. Finally we came to the duck racing, just in time for the four o’clock show. Man, those ducks are fast!

Despite the fowl’s fierce performance, I found the dog that wrangled them infinitely more adorable, proving my affection for mammals over avians.

Further evidence of my bias against birds is the fact that keeping ducks in a cage and racing them for human amusement doesn’t really bother me. But the fair also had an elephant and a camel that you could pay to ride.

Somehow that just seems really unfair for those animals to have to walk around in circles all day long with people on their backs. It’s the same kind of unfairness I object to with circuses. Even the ones that treat their animals properly still keep them in cages and teach them tricks for human enjoyment and it doesn’t seem right. Now, animals in a zoo, if they’re in a space that is made to resemble their natural habitat, and they have enough room, I guess that’s okay. But cages, definitely bad.

One of the most pleasant stops at the fair was the Our Land, Our Legacy exhibit. Why? It was air conditioned. Yeah, the man who invented A/C is my personal hero. But in addition to the cool air, it was neat to find out about all the local produce grown here on family farms in NC. I’m excited to go to some farmer’s markets.

Our last stop at the fair was the Village of Yesteryear, where every booth was a different artisan exhibiting--and often in the act of creating--authentic wares. There were potters and caners and metalsmiths and guitar makers and soap makers and all sorts of old-school craftsmen and women. Very neat.

And of course what fair would be complete without a stiltwalker?

UPDATE: I just heard that the day we went to the fair was the hottest fair day on record. Yikes. And also it was the most crowded day so far. Odd, being a Thursday. But understandable, being cheapskate--uh, I mean canned food--day.

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