Saturday, October 13, 2007

State Fair of Jurl

Tis the season for corny dogs and cotton candy! The State Fair of Texas is open for business so my family spent Columbus Day trolling the Midway and scarfing various fried foods on sticks. My husband and I love the fair and always work it into our busy schedule. I feel sorry for states that don't have their very own State Fair. Where do they try fried guacamole bits or risk their lives on rides held together with chicken wire and duct tape? Thankfully, I know that every year, from late September to late October, I can join the crush of fair goers for funnel cake and the awkwardness of carnies hustling you with one of their "never lose" games. I assure you, I never miss it.

The Fair is fascinating to me. It began in 1886 when some white dudes thought it'd be a good idea to buy some land and build a race track and a bandstand. Over one hundred years later people are still showing up to eat till they puke. Isn't that totally awesome? In the beginning there was also an agriculture aspect to the Fair and the Ag culture is still around today. For the price of admission you can see a 600 pound pig guaranteed to make you feel slim and hungry for bacon at the same time. Luckily, the Owens sausage center is right next door! You can also tool up and down rows of prize winning farm animals- everything from longhorn cattle to other, unknown variety cattle. The barn yard aroma is not to be missed.

There is so much to love about the Fair. There is the arts and craft exhibit showcasing prize winning jars of jam, quilts, creepy dolls, paintings of horses and clowns, and, most importantly, the annual butter sculpture. Yes, a sculpture made of butter. The butter sculpture is different every year. One year it was an astronaut another year it was Elvis (Elvis melted a little when the refrigeration went on the fritz). This year is was a farm scene with a horse leaping out of his stable. I never miss the butter sculpture for fear that I might be quizzed about it at some point in the coming year.

There is also a petting zoo that has a depressed giraffe who looks like he's wondering how the hec he wound up in a petting zoo at the State Fair of Texas. I'm sure he blames his mother. Anyway, if you find yourself at the petting zoo, avoid the homicidal ostrich. He's a real bastard. But, there's always one idiot who thinks it's a good idea to let the ostrich eat out of his hand then yelps when half his pinkie finger becomes bird feed. Priceless.

There's lots of shows, too. Like the Asian acrobats which are about fifteen young children being forced to flip flop for crowds of people that have no idea where in Asia they're from. I'm always on the look out for CPS. This year they had a human cannon ball. Big deal. Who couldn't be shot out of a cannon into a net and survive? Piece of cake. Then there are the old standards like the bird show and the brass band. I haven't seen either since the first time my husband and I went to the Fair together. Since we were just starting to date he'd humored me, but by the next year no more Mr. Nice Guy and no more brass band.

But we still make a love connection by chasing the deep fried dragon together. The Fair is all about food that is criminal to eat and I love that there are so many foods on a stick or stick like. Corny dogs, roasted ears of corn, turkey legs, sausage on a stick, and fried peach cobbler on a stick are just a few of the stick foods. I really went crazy this year and had a Frito pie followed up by fried cookie dough. Yummy. This was, of course, after breakfasting on a corny dog. Oh well, if you can't eat at the Fair when can you eat?

The only drag on our food Fair was this anal retentive nerd family we sat next to in the food pavilion (think huge mega-food court) who tried to shame us with their brown bag meal of PB&J sandwiches, lite fruit cups, and 100% juice juice. Really? Really? You're bringing wholesome lunches for your family to the Fair?! I must admit I hate that mother and hope they were just too poor to eat the Fair food because it is a fairly expensive endeavor. We probably spent $6000.00 just on food and rides. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it really is expensive.

This year there was a new ride- the Sky Tram. You know, a giant, metal death car suspended high above the earth on flimsy wires. The Sky Tram goes from one end of the fair and my husband talked me into it despite my fear of death. I really didn't think our three year old would get on the thing so I thought I was in the clear, but the little minx hopped right on the cable coffin. Ugh. I though I was going to puke. Does anyone remember how tram cars all over the world started falling out of the sky in the 70s so they dismantled them to save lives? In fact, the State Fair of Texas had a cable car years ago, but took it down for fear of killing innocent corny dog eaters. Uh, who told them it was o.k. to resurrect one of the most dangerous rides in history? Regardless, we survived to tell the tale, but we were lucky.

When not eating or fearing for my life, I'm people watching. The Fair attracts people from all over the state and from all walks of life. You'll see average folk as well as some strange brew. This year I noted a woman wearing a fanny pack of sorts that looked like she'd converted an old grey sweat shirt into an apron with lots of convenient pockets. Though it did appear handy, I don't think we'll be seeing it on the runway anytime soon. I wouldn't be surprised if my mother showed up in one, though.

Despite the crowds, the heat, the calories, the smell of sweat mixed with melting tar, the creepy carnies, and all the inappropriately dressed fat people, I love the Fair. It makes me feel like I'm part of something, part of history, a community. It's a family tradition- even when it was just my husband and I, we still went to the Fair. Now that we have children it's even more fun to go to the Fair-I can ride the carousel and see all the old standards, like Big Tex, renovated through the eyes of my toddler. And I must admit it, it's pretty charming when my husband spends a fortune on silly games just to please our daughter. They are both so proud of the $50.00 stuffed pig she won.

Some things, though seemingly out of step with the times, are valuable precisely because they are a holdover from the past. Not that I completely romanticize the "good old days" because there was a lot wrong with our past- segregation, lack of women's right, etc.- but, I don't dismiss them either. There is something special about a band playing on the "main stage" that opens with the National Anthem. There is something special about the old women that demonstrate quilting techniques in the Embarcadaro building. There is something special about families sharing cotton candy while standing in line for the largest ferris wheel in Texas. Simply put, The Fair is special.

So, if you haven't eaten a Fletcher's Corny Dog while standing in the shadow of Big Tex, get thy self to the Fair. You will have fun in spite of yourself. I know I always do.

1 comment:

ATLGAL said...

Hubby and I were commisserating this very weekend on the fact that its Fair time. We were talking about what we miss most about Dallas at this time of year, and the Fair was #1. We never, ever missed it and I do love it so. When you Dallas folks are there, please have a corny dog for me, and do a jig to the Kildares for me as well (Irish rock band there every day, every year, always). Also take a spin on "The Screamer" for me, my fav ride. And pat those baby goats in the baby petting zoo area for me. Georgia has a state fair, but it ain't the same, not even close. We went last year in hopes of duplicating our TX State Fair experience and it was too depressing- we'll never go back. But we will schedule our annual or bi-annual trips back to TX in future years during Fair time, I can promise you that! Can't stand to think about my little one growing up without going to a real, live Fair every year.