The Fair!


What if this post was empty, due to the aforementioned “writer’s wall” post? That would be some meta-irony or -humor, or something.


Oh well. Guess I’m too in love with the sight of my own type (as opposed to “the sound of my own voice”, which I feel like comes out all gravelly sometimes. Thus causing some self-consciousness and wishing that people would stop asking me questions. Though actually I think this anxiety is the result of having met about 25 distinct persons (plus more who are less distinct, as in the we-met-at-a-party-and-have-two-degrees-of-separation-between-us kind of way) in the last week. More or less. Jay has a lot of friends and family here!).

Red velvet funnel cake. Blue sapphire funnel cake too! (Missed that one, sadly). Chocolate covered cookie dough on a stick. Corn dog. Pulled pork sandwich. Raspberry slush. Watermelon “slushee” (Very different, I’m sure). Hard boiled egg on a stick! Maple jerky snack stick. Lots of sticks. Free Diet Sun Drop on the way out…

Fair Snacks Are The Weirdest (alternate title to this post).

At least I resisted the deep fried candy bars, though I suspect I will regret that in a week or so. Because, come on–aren’t you a bit curious? I am. Deep fried butter on a stick, though, I’ll leave well alone.

It’s a weird thing: feeling challenged by the “How much of too much can you handle?”, which many of the vendor’s booths seem to be implying. The huge block letters, flashing lightbulbs, and garish overload of photos help–I have a feeling they know the portions and combination of ingredients are insane. That’s their angle! Playing into the “Well, it’s only once a year and so why not?” rationalization we easily fall prey to (think turkey on Thanksgiving, candy on Halloween, &c), they don’t pretend to be healthy, or even reasonable! They don’t skimp on the sugar and icing (even though you complain it’s too much) because they know that’s still what you want to see. You don’t want to hear “deep fried in trans-fat free oil” even if it is! That’s not why you’re buying these products. You’re here to indulge, and if you were reminded that you weren’t indulging “as much” because the fat is free of trans (whatever that means, says the customer in a hurry who doesn’t want to bother to think about that), you’d maybe be reminded that, “Oh yeah, things like vegetables and complete proteins do exist!” and “Shoot, maybe I’d be better off having some of those instead.” And then you bypass the deep fried Snickers entirely. Nope. That’s definitely not what these guys want.

So those are my thoughts about that. For the record, the chocolate-covered cookie dough on a stick was pretty awesome. Though I’m really glad Jay and I split it.

And besides, food selling is only a small part of what happens at the fair. All the contests for biggest and most impressive plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, pigs, steers, &c ad infinitum. Some of that we saw, and some of it I enjoyed looking at (a bit to my surprise). Corn art was surprisingly neat, as was the photography in the Culture Building. Something called the Animal Learning Center had many, many adorable baby pigs and ducks and chicks and goats and calves (and elicited many, many ridiculous squeals of delight, thanks to your embarrassed correspondent). Honey bee hives were cool to watch, and to hear their keepers explain.

But wait! I have to backtrack. Maybe the best part was before we even got there. I feel like it’s poor storytelling to say that, but it was so beautiful. We drove to the Fair Grounds, a permanent structure on the south-east-ish side of Des Moines…

And of course the first thing we see is the enormous parking lot. The fair this year’s been seeing around 90,000 folks per day, so they gotta have a lot of parking. But $10? No thank you. We did what (apparently) the smart ones do, and drove around nearby side streets looking for inviting lawns. Sure enough: “Need a parking spot? Five dollars, we’re here all day, come back any time you want!” A woman on a folding chair, peddling squares of her front lawn to fair-goers. And she was one of dozens! There was something lovely about doing business with a friendly neighbor and walking in the back way, seeing all the fair laid out before us as we (cautiously) trod down the hill and planned out day at the fair.

Some of the things inside: a giant slide, a Ferris wheel, and many other rides besides; very persuasive game booth vendors–I half-wanted Jay to win a stuffed animal for me until we both felt way too dumb for how easy targets we were to these guys; a Varied Industries building selling As Seen on TV things and registering you for community college if you wanted.

A craft beer tent that we sampled a few things at–Jay wanted the sour ale but it ran out mid-pour, spraying everywhere. Suddenly a siren was ringing, Jay was getting a free “Beer” t-shirt (complete with “I tapped it at the Iowa State Fair!” on the back) and his picture on the Fair’s Facebook page. And all Jay could say at the end of it all was that he had really wanted to try that sour ale (Killjoy ;)).

It was all quite a sight to behold. I feel like I blinked my eyes and 10:30am had become 5pm, and here I was, eating dough off a stick and watching young children in one-pieces and Crocs frolic in the water fountains (I was jealous, it was hot!). I didn’t get to wear the short overalls like I had wanted to (after reading about the “fad” fifteen-odd years ago in Illinois, according to DFW), but I had my cut-offs, and I had my cowgirl boots. We got to meet Jay’s elementary school GT (Gifted and Talented) teacher who had long abandoned teaching to open a tie-dyed clothing store, and who was doing demonstrations. Oh! Demonstrations! I loved watching one woman make lampworked glass beads with a torch, and another a bowl on her pottery wheel. It made me think of my relative lack of enthusiasm for museums–I don’t want to look at stuff, I want to watch people doing stuff! Especially when it’s their craft–so beautiful when they clearly love doing it, too…

And that was my impression of the fair. If this was a rather jumbled read, well I suppose it’s a pretty accurate reflection of my experience. Fun, in a whirwindy kind of way. (I’m a broken record, but) Guess I’ll have to make it back to Des Moines!



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