No Fair!

Indiana State Fair Midway

Well, I missed it again.  My State Fair finished its run without my help or attendance.  And I am trying to figure out why this is.

I love the idea of the State Fair.  My mother evidently did not, because the concept of driving the 100 miles to Indianapolis to look at animals and tractors was never once expressed during my youth.  Now that i think of it, she never had any interest in the County Fair from her hometown either.  She grew up on a farm but I have long suspected that she found her farming background something to escape from rather than to revisit.

My stepmom has long loved going to her local county fair, and I took in several of those  over the years.  I never cared much for the animals but loved the rides and the food.  Except for that year when those two combined badly and I spent much of the evening lying in the back seat of the car,  Between barf-runs to the trash barrel.  My heart goes out to the folks who had to empty that one.

When I moved to Indianapolis I figured that I might start attending the State Fair.  The fairgrounds is, after all, not tremendously far from my house.  Like maybe three miles?  And attend I have – twice.

The first time was when I volunteered to join a group working at a food concession.  That evening I learned everything I needed to know about grilling ears of corn.  And shucking hot ears of corn so that they could be placed into a crock pot of melted butter before being exchanged for cash so as to drip butter all over the purchaser’s shirt.  But boy were they good.

But it was no fun to go to a fair by myself.  Surely, I thought when I began dating the future Mrs. JPC, the State Fair will become an annual event for us.  I turned out to be wrong about that.

The problem was this:  My future Mrs. had grown up across the street from the Fairgrounds.  In my Mrs’ youth her family would make money by parking fairgoers’ cars in their small yard.  To her the fair represented nothing but noise, hassle and disruption and she was happy when they moved away from it.

But one year we somehow overcame that negative association and went to the fair.  Our kids were young so we did the whole package.  We rode on rides, we ate fair food, we strolled through exhibits of all kinds, and we looked at animals.  Lots and lots of animals.

Why did we not go back the next year?  A good question.  Why do we not go back now?  The ever-increasing fair admission seems like a lot of money to not ride rides, and to not eat the kinds of food we have no business eating.

We are also not fans of heat.  And if we go in the evening, we run into another problem – My Mrs. serves the unfortunate role of becoming a destination for mosquitoes.  Really, she has served as an early warning system for the rest of the family for as long as I have known her.  A valuable role, but not an altogether pleasant one.  At least for her.  So between the daytime heat and the evening mosquitoes, the fair is not really a great option.

Every year is the same.  As the fair approaches I get a little tingle of “this might be the year, maybe I will talk her into going.”  But then the season ends, with me musing “perhaps next year” as think wistfully about a tenderloin sandwich from the Indiana Pork Producers or some fresh-made ice cream from the Dairy Barn.

For a short time it looked like we may have been able to avoid the parking and traffic by riding the Fair Train.  A local railroad group ran a train to and from the Fair multiple times a day.  For most of that time it made zero sense to drive about ten miles north to ride a train to a destination that was only three miles to our south.

But then they added an intermediate stop not at all far from our house.  It would be perfect – we could drive about a mile to the boarding stop and take the train straight there and straight back afterwards.  But then things blew up with the railroading group and the trains stopped running completely.

It has been promised that a jogging and biking trail will replace the railroad tracks, but jogging or biking all the way there so that we can spend the day walking in the sun?  I don’t foresee this as part of our future.

Perhaps I should find an abandoned restaurant and go into business making and selling nothing but fair food.  I know nothing about making or selling fair food, but the concept seems so ripe for profit, how can I lose?  And think of the fabulous possibilities for puns in the name.

So maybe I had better finish this up and start learning how to make elephant ears, lemon shake-ups and how to deep fry everything in the snack aisle at the gas station.  I see a race coming – can I get things perfected before I double my weight?  It might be fun to find out.

 

Photo Credit:

August 11, 2017 photo by Jim Grey, slightly reduced in size and found here in its original form.  Used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.  Thanks Jim!

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22 thoughts on “No Fair!

  1. As one who is a huge fan of his state fair, I will confess to not attending until sometime in my early 30s. However, we’ve refined the process such that rides aren’t even on the radar and we focus on a few key things such as the 4H, Ag, and Home Economics buildings. It helps they are in close proximity as my daughter has had entries in all three – her pork jerky placed fourth in the Ag building this year, beating out some professionals.

    The fair has understandably been tainted for Mrs. JPC. There are no doubt some close to the fairgrounds here, as well as many other states, that avoid it like the plague.

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    • Props to your daughter who has had quite a few success at State Fair competitions, as I recall. I do find those competitions interesting. My favorite was shared by some friends who had been to the Kentucky State Fair. There was a pipe smoking competition – the winner was the one who could keep a bowlful of tobacco burning the longest.

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  2. I never went to the state fair until after my divorce, and then it became an annual tradition with my two sons. My birthday always happens during the fair so we usually went on or near my birthday. I’d even go once alone with my camera just to take photographs. Here’s one of the best photos I’ve ever made, of the midway entrance at dusk.

    State Fair at dusk

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    • I laughed out loud when the best picture I found online was one of yours. The one above is beautiful.

      I have always kind of wondered why they don’t move the fair to September because the weather would be so much nicer. But then kids are in school then so it would be tougher for families to go during the days.

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  3. That was great! And a reminder that I should go to our local fall fair, as I have not been in twenty years…..if I can find someone to go with me. Fairs aren’t so popular now. My parents being farm folks, always took us when we were kids, and later the grandkids. After a cursory walk through the midway, (where we were only allowed a couple of rides, although the grandkids were allowed unlimited!) most of the time was spent in the 4H/home ec/agricultural buildings (which I still enjoy visiting), and then my dad would head for the cattle barns. We would ditch the cattle and watch the horse competitions, as I loved horses. Our local fall fair (which is the biggest in the district attracting 70,000) is nothing in size compared to your state fair, although there are smaller ones in every little town, but it’s a Thanksgiving weekend tradition. It’s also the last one of the season, and usually cold and rainy, which is another reason not to go! Every year the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) in Toronto has a competition for the strangest food combos….but I like plain old spun cotton candy, and maybe a carmel apple.

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    • Now you make me want to go more as well. As for rides, I am not sure when things changed but they did. At some point in my 20s I turned into my father who could not handle the spinning stuff at all.

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      • I can’t do rides anymore either. Hey, your post showed me I could do a blog on my fall fair, from memory, without having to go at all! Forget the cold and rain. I’ll do the history angle, as I’m a history buff and it’s been a tradition for over 160 years, starting first as a livestock fair back in 1860 something . I remember my dad saying it was a big event back when he was a child, he got a quarter to spend, a lot of money in the Depression, and it was something everyone looked forward to and participated in. Thanks for the idea! Your blogs are so well-written and humorous, it would be nice if you had a wider audience – are there any local publications you could submit things to?

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  4. I’ve never been to our State Fair, in fact to any State Fair. When we moved to our current city, we went to the local County Fair. Once. I enjoyed the tractors and some of the animal exhibits. I learned that after sheep are shorn, some are dressed in brightly colored Lycra, like something from an ‘80’s hair band. Out of curiosity, I just checked the website for California’s state fairgrounds. Upcoming events include a nail show (not about construction fasteners, and interestingly no children under 12), and Punk in Drublic, a draft beer and music festival with no published age limits.

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    • The county fair is interesting – I have never been to that one at all. Oddly, my county fair is maybe 4 times the distance from my house as the State fair. The State Fairgrounds has events going on all year around. Early in the summer the Mecum classic car auction was there – I went for the first time ever.

      Wait – now you make me remember that I was actually at the fair one more time – my senior year of high school our high school band got on two buses and flew in highway formation with a rented equipment truck and marched in a “Band Day” competition at the State Fair. What is my most vivid memory of the day? Learning that a fender-mounted solenoid on an LTD belonging to a kid’s dad replaced a bad one in the Ford rental truck so we could get started early in the morning. By the time we had come back the rental company’s mechanic had put a new one in the LTD so everything worked out.

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  5. Your title was worth the price of admission, JP.

    My last visit to a state fair was in such unbearable heat that no sane animal stayed outdoors when they could seek refuge in the cooler interiors—which did not carry the aroma of fresh, clean hay.

    I get the sense that this is a shoulda/woulda/coulda event that you know is more attractive in your imagination than in reality. And you certainly don’t want to subject your poor wife to aerial bombardment. So perhaps a nice cool indoor movie—with buttered popcorn replacing the ears of corn in your memory bank?

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  6. I used to love to go to the “Exhibition” (the Canadian National Exhibition) in Toronto. It’s only open the last two weeks of August, up to Labour Day. As a kid, it’s where I got my first introduction to Auto shows – the Automotive building, as it was called then, had a car show that filled the whole building, and it was huge, at least to my childhood eyes. It’s where I collected car brochures, including the 1966 Dodge Charger, and I thought that car was like, from outer space. The Ex culminates with an air show the last weekend it’s open, and the US Military is well represented, or at least it used to be.

    I have a photo I’d like to post, but I’m afraid I don’t see what button to use to do that.

    Ahh, summertime, State Fairs, exhibitions, and so on. Then a hint of autumn arrives, and the mercury starts to drop a bit.

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    • Yeah, I guess the EX is the closest we’ve got to a State Fair. Trouble is, it’s right downtown Toronto and such a colossal pain in the butt to get down there and back it’s not worth going (for me, anyway).

      I’d like to do to a State Fair sometime, it sounds more open and accessible. There’s lots of room in each State, isn’t there?

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  7. I like your view of fair fare – that’s the truth about the butter dripping off the corn and where it goes (except do add “more belly fat”).. Who can beat the elephant ears? It’s been years since I’ve been to a fair and that was the Toronto Exhibition held annually in late August. I’ve never been to the Michigan State Fair despite living here for 53 years. They are more all about the animals, less about the rides and foods from what I gather from social media.

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