You never know what you’ll find at the fair

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We have nothing to fear except fear itself and sitting on cotton candy.

My wife gave me 59 cents and told me to go have some fun. I can do that at a fair. People watching is relatively inexpensive. I wave vigorously at strangers. They spend hours trying to figure out who I was.

I’ve worked at countless fairs — county and state. Fairs put the fun in funnel cake.

Email newsletter signup

I got lost at a fair once when I was a boy and I asked a deputy sheriff to help me find my father. He looked at me and said, “We’ll try to find your old man, but don’t get your hopes up, kid. There are a lot of places for him to hide on a fairgrounds this big.”

Trying to walk the fairgrounds without eating is a fool’s errand. An award is given to anyone who goes 10 minutes without eating. The four basic food groups are grease, fat, sugar and sticks. People spend great amounts of time standing in line near food stands. I went on a quest to find a mayonnaise malt. One food stand was making and selling potato chips. There were spills. A fellow cleaned up the fallen product. He was a good man to have around when the chips were down. Cruel souls were eating pepperoni pizza in front of the pigs. French fries cost $5. That’s $1.79 in fast food money. Deep-fried lefse on a stick, deep-fried gravy on a stick (you can deep fry anything) and foot-long hotdogs with or without bunions. I bought a walking taco. That allowed me to walk and taco at the same time.

A fair is where people have simple wishes — for ice water and a flyswatter. There is a long line to anything that is free. Such as the ventriloquist whose dummy was a monk who’d taken a vow of silence.

The fair isn’t a place for those with a low tolerance for loud music. The guitars were so loud, there wasn’t much room left for the music. How many country singers does it take to replace a light bulb? Two. One to replace it and one to sing about how much he missed the old bulb.

An older group of men had formed a band called the Gallstones that played ancient Rolling Stones songs. One of the fellows was in tune, but the others made up for him.

There were flower, vegetable, photo, art, woodworking, baking, poster, livestock (except poultry) and other competitions. Winning is a big thing. My neighbor, a modest man, wears the blue ribbon he won for dill pickles in 1999 to church. Due to avian flu concerns, there was no fowl play at the fair. Chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and pigeons were absent. Some enterprising 4-H member should have crossed a cocker spaniel, a poodle and a rooster. Then they’d at least have a cockerpoodledoo at the fair.

In the Rube Building, where rubes like me run the gantlet of vendors selling as much this as that, someone was selling whips to grade school boys. Always a good idea. It gives them something to do until they reach the BB gun and lawn dart stands.

The merry-go-round had gone into a spin cycle. All was right with the world. The merry-go-round was named, “Life.” You only go around once. The noise of the midway made everyone sound as if they were speaking backwards.

Kids put fingers on the glass of fish aquariums as if the fish were cellphone apps. There was excitement galore when the wind changed during the watermelon seed spitting contest and those seated in the front two rows got more than they’d expected. Great expectorations!

People used to go to fairs to see a tattooed lady. If that is your desire, you’ll get your money’s worth today.

You will find what you are looking for at the fair. It may be at the other end of a long line, but it’s there. You’ll find everything from the Sahara Desert to Sarah’s Desserts.

The only complaint I heard was from a crusty curmudgeon who growled, “I don’t know why I’m wasting my time here when I could be wasting it elsewhere.”

Then he waddled off to find food in a vast waistland.


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