the Fair, food and fun (not neccessarily in that order)
We're veterans of a lot of fairs and carnivals. As a teen, Dad took Giggles and I to the big Kahunas of them all, the World's Fair. Twice. Knoxville in '82 and New Orleans in '84. That '82 World's Fair shirt got this strange kid to pretty much think I was his best friend the next year in HS because we. had. the. same. shirt. from. the. world's. fair. (oy, that was great fun)
In addition to those two major events, we also went to countless festivals, county fairs and the West Virginia State Fair and Maryland State Fair within a week of each other. (West Virginia's was MUCH better-they may be right about that 'almost heaven' thing).
There's a history there-I like fairs. Fortunately, I married a guy who likes them as much as I do. He even avoids the hucksters at those games of misfortune, too. (See? I like them smart!) From the time the boys were babies, we'd go to many fire company carnivals, and county fairs. We never did get to the Maryland State Fair in the 16 years I was a resident. It seemed our county fair got better musical acts, anyway.
With nearly 4 years as Florida residents, I didn't want to skip the state fair like I'd done in the previous state. It is harder to make excuses here, since we live less than 15 minutes from the state fairgrounds and have been over there every year for the Home Show. Why the Home Show and not the State Fair? Wine, my friends, Wine!
I'd driven by the fairgrounds on the way to and from work for the previous two weeks and the midway looked huge from the interstate. Let me tell you, it IS huge when you're traversing it with a walker over dirt, gravel path and electrical cable.
So,anyway, we go through the gate and immediately, we're surrounded by booths selling food. Yummy food. Food that you only find at these types of events. Sno Cones, Corn Dogs, Fried Bratwursts (basically a corn dog on steroids), Pizza on a Stick, and Walking Tacos (a/k/a Frito Pie). Somehow, we didn't blow our money in the first thirty seconds, because we were hungry and it smelled good.
No, we decide to head towards the big building where the Home Shows are held and quickly detour into the Department of Wildlife Management's building. This was right up Chef Jr's alley because there were fish to see and contemplate pilfering to make a nice dinner! Of course, Gameboy was happy to go, too. It's animals-no complaints about seeing animals. The building was full of tanks of fish and had a few representatives of the mammal genus. A bobcat, brown bear and some deer. I was glad the walker has a seat, as the kids like to spend a lot of time
Once we come out of the building, the smell of yummy stuff finally drives us crazy with hunger. A burger (guess who?) and a couple of corn dogs are purchased. After sitting to consume those, I find a gyro booth and get a delicious greek taco ;) . Chef Jr tries this and decides he really, really likes gyros. Never mind that we've offered them to him dozens of times in the past-I was the only one with food in my hand at that moment, so of course, he had to have it!
Into the big building we went. Unlike other fairs we've attended, instead of being full of crafts, baking or other contests, it was full of vendors. Many of the same vendors that are at the Home Show, even. Alas, no wine. Ed and I discussed the logistics of trying to staff a 10 day fair for an office with 6 wine consultants-it was not a pretty sight. The space that normally would have gone to the lovely wine was instead filled by the Florida Lottery. They had many booths. I guess after paying 10 bucks a head to get in, and blowing 40 bucks on dinner, they think you want to
Time to head out to the midway. Today is wrist band day. This means that you pay 25 bucks to ride unlimited rides. Not a bad deal if you get there early in the day, but we got a late start. Besides, the lines were extremely long. We decide to buy one sheet of tickets and do wrist bands at the Strawberry Festival in three weeks. It's more economical and it's equally close to home.
The boys have different tastes in rides. Gameboy loves ferris wheels and isn't afraid of heights or speed. Chef, on the other hand, HATES heights, but loves rides where he can take control. They both love fun houses, so that was their first choice.
Later, they split up, Gameboy wants to go up this big tower with a circular slide. It's a neat departure from the usual slide that he normally goes for. Chef finds a jungle gym type thing with a rope bridge and contained slide. The waits were not too bad, but not something I'd want to endure for long periods (can I tell you I hate my foot? No? Too bad, I hate my foot.)
While up in the tower waiting to come down, Gameboy sees some bumper boats and he HAS to go on. We head over there, and I am impressed that the child who looks for shoes at eye level is able to direct us to the red and blue canopy-there are the boats. Uhhhh, these are kiddie boats-I don't think he'll fit in one of those boats. This is confirmed when a boy about 4 or 5 inches shorter than Chef is wedged into a boat. No way that Gameboy is going to fit.
Another mom tells us she saw big bumper boats down another lane of rides (there were 5 long rows of rides, with 7, yes 7 ferris wheels). We thank her, then head down towards the ferris wheel she said we'd find it near. While walking, Ed and I hear this rather distinct voice "Hey, Ugly." It sounds like the person talking has gargled with Draino AND smoked a carton of camels a day for the past 30 years. "Hey, Fatso, I'm talking to you." I'm thinking there is NO WAY the insult clown that we'd seen at the Frederick County Fair back in Maryland is here. Nuh uh. We walk by without looking, lest he sling insults at us.
We find the bumper boats, just as they're closing briefly for refueling. Fine, this means it's time for funnel cake and elephant ears. We enjoy the cool, evening air and admire all the colorful neon (pictures to follow soon). I think to myself that the fair in February feels an awful lot like the county fair in September back in Maryland. Just a little tiny chill in the air to make you feel alive. This is why we live here-so that we can do this stuff in the winter-and sit in the AC during the summer.
The boys get on the bumper boats, which has a 'no single riders' rule. Fortunately, Gameboy has recognized his own shortfall-he's not good at steering these things. Meanwhile, Chef has all the makings of a race car driver and he is loving being in control of the boat. I envy him, because he is out there and whipping that thing around, while his brother is leaning back and laughing a bunch of genuine laughs.
After they've taken their turn, we've got 3 tickets and I asked Chef if Gameboy can have them. Meanwhile, Ed talks to Gameboy and says why don't you let Mommy have a ride. We walk back down the midway and I try to find a 3 ticket ride that doesn't have a huge line (those darn wrist bands!). This time, we look over at the insult clown and I swear, it IS the one from the Frederick County fair. No joke. If the voice didn't creep me out, I'd go over and ask the guy if that is his fall gig and this is his winter gig (different operators for the two). It's a Small World-a small, creepy world in this case!
I find a ride, we walk out towards the exit and take some pictures of the night scenery. All in all, a nice relaxing afternoon and evening. It was needed.
Now, in three weeks, we can gorge on strawberry shortcakes and maybe see Lotus's husband play guitar with this guy at the Strawberry Festival. Woohoo!