Al Batt: I felt as lucky as Kentucky on a fair day this season

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

It was time for me to get my fairs in order.

Don’t follow the masses. Sometimes the “m” is silent.

That was the advice I was given years back without asking for it. I ignored it and followed the masses to a county fair. Fairgrounds aren’t mediocre coffee. There is something for everyone unless you are someone for whom nothing is good enough. You can find complete gutter systems, potato peelers and a deep-fried picnic on a stick at a county fair.

A county fair is a tie that binds and it smells like memories. It’s a source of slack-jawed wonderment that made me feel as lucky as all the lucky people in Kentucky combined.

It was an imperfectly perfect day. People wearing T-shirts reading, “Don’t forget my senior citizen discount” walked the fairgrounds with fists full of money. A friend, aided by a cane, tried out his new knees. He was a happy fairgoer on a stick.

No one shows up at a fair well-fed. Someone is making lunch for you at a fair. A fair for the ages and the sausages. Thanks to rides and deep-fried things perched on sticks, a fair is a place where you can both lose and gain a stomach. It’s Disneyland for appetites. They do amazing things with sticks. Imagine what they could do with deep-fried items and Tinkertoys. The sticks provide needed fiber. I tried not to get off on the wrong footlong, but walking past all the food stands causes everyone’s cholesterol to rise. What do you call ice cream on a hot day at the fair? Cream. Adventurous folks embark on hedonistic attempts to eat an entire food stand. Hot foods leave some feeling as if their insides were sunburned. No two snow cones are identical. Kids flossed with cotton candy. The oatmeal stand was quiet. The grease from food was axle deep on the Ferris wheel. What do you do after you have properly overeaten? You get on the Tilt-A-Hurl.

Noisy rides muffled the sounds of parents being frightened to death. There was no roller coaster, just one big drink coaster. Merry-go-rounds were something going around. A sign warned: Your IQ must be this low to go on this ride. Adults consider them horrible rides designed by sadistic people, claiming that in the good old days, the rides were made from matchsticks and rubber bands they’d hoped held together until the end of the ride. The merry-go-round horses with creepy expressions went berserk one year and threw riders all over the fairgrounds. For those who had driven on roads filled with roadwork, the rides weren’t that scary.

People asked where the restrooms were. That’s a good thing, as the restrooms wouldn’t be looking for them. Restrooms had no express lines. Impatient folks mustered enough courage to use porta-potties.

There was a selfie competition at the photo show and amplified music highlighted Deafen Your Neighbors Week. I went into the house of mirrors and ran nose-first into a mirror. I was struck by the resemblance. Classic tractors gathered far afield from their fields. At the grow it and show it, flowers and people bloomed. A butter judge said, “That appeals to my butter judgment.”

Bucket of junk art projects amazed me. Participants designed art pieces using scraps of metal, welding ability and creativity. It was magic how they took odds and ends, and created an end without it looking odd.

There were squeals of hellos when young women met. People were as happy to see the fair as the teenyboppers were to see The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” They enjoyed listening to the racket of other people.

Slick folks running games of chance thought I came in on the noon balloon from Saskatoon or rode in on a load of melons. Both childish and child-like behavior was displayed. Cellphones were deemed as necessary as breathing for fairgoers. A phone is a leash of sorts. Lots of appy people there.

People visit a county fair for different reasons — corn dogs, funnel cakes, chocolate-covered bacon, rides, stage acts, pig racing, livestock or demolition derby. I come to listen to people tell their stories. It’s like sitting on a front porch and visiting with everybody and their yellow dogs. It hurt that I didn’t remember everyone’s name, but the heat of the day roasted me to sweetness.

I won a brown medal after setting a record for stepping on livestock manure.

I won a blue ribbon, too.

It was in the fly attraction competition.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.