Fair-goers attempted to reach maximum girth

Published 9:23 am Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

Al Batt

A veterinarian was doctoring a sick horse on the merry-go-round.

Aromas of corndogs, mini-doughnuts and cow manure combined to make an intoxicating bouquet.

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The summer had a severe case of the dwindles. It was going away.

All I was seeking was fairness.

I look for it at the county fair. A place that makes me wish I were 8 years old.

People moved about the fair in a kind of leisurely rush as “Free Bird” blared from the speakers in the grandstand. Everyone knew that the fair quickly evaporates in the hot weather. Children were underfoot like fallen arches. Mysterious things were clinging to their shoe bottoms.

The fairgrounds was filled with fair-goers attempting to reach their maximum thickness. The fair is the most effective calorie delivery system outside the IV drip. The fair is like a cruise ship, only without the cruise or the ship. Nothing says summer like a sweaty fistful of fair foodstuffs. The fist bump was invented at the fair—because of sticky hands. We love that ubiquitous greasy smell of fried food on a stick. I wonder what Darwin would say about that? There were delicacies like deep-fried lettuce-on-a-stick — it was almost good for me.

It’s a culinary survival course. I asked a friend, “What did you have at the fair?” That’s fair code for inquiring as to what an individual had ingested while visiting a fair. My friend replied, “Seven foot-long hotdogs, countless cheese curds, some funnel cakes, three cotton candies, many mini-doughnuts, a slice of pizza and two stomachaches.” As the stomach turns.

He was lucky. He was one of the fortunate ones who could remember what he had eaten. Most of us eat far more than we are able to recall, forcing the last bit down like a rattlesnake swallowing a radish.

As kids, we played, “Would you eat that?” We’d make up weird foods like deep-fried tater tot hotdish-on-a-stick. We didn’t know we were seers.

There were foodstands that featured cooks that hadn’t been microwaved out of existence for the less adventuresome.

A vendor made a living by guessing how much weight people had gained after a day at the fair.

The oddest thing happened to me after the fair. I had a meal and nothing was served deep-fried on a stick.

I watched contestants contract carpal tunnel from trying to toss a ring onto a pop bottle at the Lion’s stand. Winners used hula-hoops. It brought back memories of the year I won a carnival game prize — a goldfish-in-the-plastic-bag-aquarium. I named it Goldie. I was precious. I walked through livestock barns clutching a clear plastic bag in which a goldfish appeared to float in midair. That was during a time when men swung large mallets in order to impress women.

I walked the avenue of neon lights and the boulevard of bluster. Supported by an explosion of lights, swirling things, bright colors and music so loud that many suffered a near-deaf experience; the midway beckoned with promises that made casino ads seem conservative. Everyone would be a winner. We believe that at a county fair.

Nearly normal people paid to be delightfully scared on rides that creaked in ominous ways. Whoever it was who said that you only go around once has never been on the Malevolent Motion Sickness Monster of Infinite Spinning ride. It’s a torture of demonic ideals. Fear burns calories. Go for a terrifying ride and then eat more.

The cows mooed, the politicians brayed and the pigs grunted. I looked at piglets far too cute to be called swine. A judge spoke of head carriage, topline, pasterns and overall conformation of freshly scrubbed cattle.

I walked by various entrepreneurs hawking their wares. I purchased an invisible balloon-on-a-stick (it saves on wind) and a tooth-on-a-stick for cleaning brushes.

There were those who make a living telling Ole and Lena jokes and a demolition derby. The demolition derby featured a piñata car and drivers who used their turn signals to set a good example for young drivers.

I watched a fellow shot from a cannon. He flew through the air with the greatest of ease. He was paid mileage. I saw a sign saying that big jerks were wanted for tug-of-war team. I participated in the rodeo. I entered the steer-staring competition. I didn’t do well. I was a cowboy with dry eyes.

I visited various buildings to find symmetrically perfect radishes on display near enormous summer squash and towering sunflower plants. I discovered that a neighbor’s cooking had won the antacid division.

The county fair brings a community together and produces fond memories.

The best part of the fair is that there are more hellos than good-byes.

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.