Al Batt: The fair is where any problem can be solved with onion rings

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

It’s too hot, too humid, too rainy, too cramped. 

Too bad. Like moths to a lightbulb, we are drawn to it. It’s the local equivalent of Disney World.

Al Batt

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It’s the county fair, a vast land of stomach-expanding foods. Men are powerless against massive quantities of grease. My neighbor Crandall, a noted carnievore who always asks for extra grease, said he was just going to have a small slice of pizza and he did, but he washed it down with a funnel cake, two corn dogs, some cheese curds, three fried pickles, a giant turkey leg like the Flintstones ate and a deep-fried picnic on-a-stick. That’s permissible gluttony at a fair. A study by the Office of Excessive Research found the average person eats between three and five pounds of food per day. Three to five pounds? That’s a light snack between meals at the fair, not counting the sticks the deep-fried food had been impaled upon. Those sticks provide much-needed fiber.

I had a meal that had no salt, no sugar, no fat and no gluten. The napkin was tasteless. A fairgoer offered me a mini-doughnut or three. I declined with appreciation. I’d had an elegant sufficiency and my sufficiency was suffonsified and one more mini-doughnut would have been superfluous. 

Don Nolander, former sheriff of Freeborn County, said the number of kids getting lost at the fair dropped considerably when they stopped giving ice cream to straying children. Some kids were becoming lost several times a day. Parents are more watchful today than the earlier generations who sent kids off with little concern over  where they went or who they went with.

Those who could text before they could walk stared at cellphone screens as they strolled the midway — the Ringling Brothers-in-Law’s Circus. There are many ways to spin in circles there as the riders sing the traditional midway ride song, “Yeoooowwww!” I was told the most popular ride on a scorching hot Senior Day was an ambulance.

I don’t go on rides. I’ve flown into the Grand Canyon as a passenger in a small airplane that bounced like a basketball with wings. Kermit the Frog was right. It’s not easy being green. Life is a bumpy ride. I grew up on a gravel road that was anything but straight. We had tractors and tow chains and rescued wayward drivers. We assured each driver that we’d be able to pull most of the car out of the ditch. I pulled one fellow who was drunker than a wedding guest from the ditch and he drove into the ditch on the road’s other side. Some people enjoy short, terrifying rides.

There are competing noises at the Fair. Rackets of various kinds. One band was so loud it was painful. It was sponsored by an association of audiologists.

In 1988, George H. W. Bush received his party’s nomination for President of the United States. In his acceptance speech, he called for a “kinder, gentler nation.” The T-shirts were kinder and gentler than in recent years. For example: “Education is important. Fishing is importanter.”

 In the Rube Building, a proponent of dismantling the federal government told me politicians had their hands in my pockets. What do they want with all that lint?

I went to the Poultry Building to see the silkies. They’re my favorite chicken. Yes, I have a favorite chicken. Doesn’t everyone? Silkies have a fluffy plumage caused by an absence of barbs on their feathers, black skin and five toes (most chickens have four).

I’ve had my share of fair experiences. I’ve milked a cow by hand and brought a goat into a show ring while deftly stepping into its droppings, which became concrete-like on my shoes. I won a watermelon seed-spitting contest when my opponent in the finals inhaled deeply in preparation to send the seed over the grandstand and sucked the seed into his windpipe. I was afraid my victory dance would need to be postponed while I performed a Heimlich Maneuver. The good news was the loser was OK. I’ve sat in a dunk tank and was amazed my mother-in-law had such an accurate and tireless throwing arm. 

It was a moment to put on a gold chain and wear around my neck.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.