The Fair

Part Three: The Fair

I recently read a hilarious article by Garrison Keillor (who is so famous that his name is recognizable to spell-check) about state fairs, and I thought I would share a little here.

“The State Fair is a ritual carnival marking the end of summer and gardens and apple orchards and the start of school and higher algebra and the imposition of strict rules and what we in the north call the Long Dark Time. It isn’t the World’s Columbian Expoposition, the Aquarian Exposition, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the Exposition Universelle, the Gathering of the Tribes, or the Aspen Institute. It’s just us, taking a break from digging potatoes.”

In my case, the entire summer is me, taking a break from digging potatoes. The fair is just the coup de grace.

Let me just say, that I love summer. Each spring, I get an itch to be out of the structured world and into the world of freedom. Into a world where I don’t have to drive the kids to school, or to any activity, where we can sleep late and do whatever we feel like every day. A world where we stay up too late, drink too much beer (well, not the kids…), get too much sun, and eat too much ice-cream. A world where we don’t take photos, or write blogs, or complete projects, (nor do we even work on them) where, in fact, we are so busy trying to catch up from all the trips we take and friends we have hosted that we can’t even THINK about projects. A world that everyone needs, but that would kill us if it lasted forever. And the fair, usually appearing just as Labor Day marks the official end to summer, cooks all this hedonism into bacon-fat and wraps it in fried dough. What would summer be without the fair?

“Some state fairs are roomier, some gaudier, but there is a great sameness to them, just as there is a similarity among Catholic churches. No state fair can be called trendy, luxurious, dreamy – none of that. Nothing that is farm oriented or pigcentric is even remotely upscale.”

Growing up, I went to the same fair each year as a child. (And to preserve my memories of that fair, I refuse to go back as an adult) I remember the excitement I felt looking out the back window of my parents’ car as we waited in line to park in a grass field and I could see the rides touching the sky in the distance. Since we moved here, I’ve been looking for the perfect fair for my kids, and after trying out some not-so-great ones, I think we’ve finally found ours. We found a fair out in the country, that has been going for 142 years, and celebrates true farminess. Where we can see an ox pull and a zedonk (half zebra, half donkey), pat some bunnies and goats, and don’t feel like we have to shower afterward.

As a friend told me before we went, “It’s such a sweet, country fair. But, you know, it’s still a fair…” Yeah, we know. It’s a fair where marginally sober barkers talk you into letting your kids throw darts for the chance of winning a framed, alcohol-themed poster (or, even better, a poster of trashy, half-naked girls).

Just kidding. She actually walked away with a giant, pink, inflatable hammer that says “girl power.” Her choice. (?)

It’s a fair where you can eat your weight (and we did) in cotton candy, corn dogs, and root-beer flavored snow-cones. Where you can buy a half pound of fudge and eat it in the car on the way home. Where your husband goes to get ride tickets and comes back carrying a sausage and an icy cold Labatt’s Blue in a can.
It’s the fair, and it’s summer, and it’s coming to an end. Next week is the first week of my “real” life, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s time to settle in and go back to school, to go to bed early and practice restraint, to have a schedule and work towards goals. It’s time to begin that “Long Dark Time” that allows us to deserve summer in the first place.

“You drive past the fairgrounds a few days later on your way to work. It looks like the encampment of an invading army that got what booty it wanted and went home. And now you are yourself again, ambitious, disciplined, frugal, walking briskly, head held high, and nobody would ever associate you with that shameless person stuffing his face with bratwurst and kraut, mustard on his upper lip, and a half-eaten deep-fried Snickers in his other hand. That was not the real you. This is. This soldier of the simple declarative sentence. You have no need for cheap glitter and pig fat and pointless twirling. You have work to do. Onward.”

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One thought on “The Fair

  1. Chava I LOVE this post! (especially since i live across the street from the fair, and went not once, but TWICE. AND the kids woke up every morning that the fair was here and said "why do i smell french fries everywhere?")

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