by David Kish
Did the County Fair have a sideshow? Yes, but they called it a "Freak Show." Tyrone the hip-hop killer rat topped the bill. There were things with two, three, four, five and six legs. Rides propelled people braver than me to great heights and sickness. Shed-sized fiberglass lemons dispensed lemonade. Tractors began to feel familiar. Sheriff's deputies, in nice beige uniforms, seemed less tense than city cops. Aaahh, the County Fair!
I was there on Saturday. Bret Michaels did not toss me his sweaty bandana, but I did get to meet a few celebrities: The Budweiser Clydsedale horses. Dickson, Duke, Bud, Duke, Ace, Regel, John, Mick, Elite and Chris looked at me through the bars of their tidy stables as if to say, "What the hell are you looking at?" The truck they rode in on was parked alongside, looking huge and immaculately detailed. Another spotless truck held rows of beautiful black leather harnesses with polished studs and buckles. It was like a sadomasochist's nirvana.
A more modest accommodation was the model double-wide home, conveniently located next to the above ground pool showcase. At $85,000, it was a surprisingly roomy, nicely laid-out manufactured home. The salesman, a "Housing Consultant" according to his card, informed me that
he'd help me buy land so there'd be a place to plop 'er down. Honestly, I was diggin' the pool table in the game room. But I doubt those plastic door jambs would hold up to a good ol' blue-collar door-slamming session.
In the "Home Arts" tent, plastic white picket fences divided a sea of vitrines and wall panels that held the most surreal, incongruous objects—all festooned with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ribbons. There was an entire decorated sneaker category. I saw half a baguette with a 1st place ribbon. It was next to a dish of what were labeled "Deviled Eggs," but looked more like shrunken ears. A 4-year-old took honors with his "Bottle Cap Collection," which consisted of some 30 beer-bottle caps arranged on a dirty piece of fabric—half of them were Coronas. Six of the rest were Bud Lights, and I got the feeling his parents may have helped him with his project the night before it was due. I'd like to find this poor kid and give him a Rolling Rock cap. The Table Setting Competition was something to behold, and I envisioned rural villages holding deep grudges over whether linen napkins should go beside the plate or on the plate.
Also prize-worthy were the animals at the auction. I sat in the stands for a few rounds of bidding. There's nothing like a good auctioneer, and this one was professional and courteous, often slowing down to make sure that we understood these animals were raised by the refreshingly polite 4H kids who were ubiquitous in their green Colonel Sanders ties and real blue jeans. The Grand Prize Swine was in a special pen. Unlike the "Home Arts" tent, not everyone here was a winner. Just this guy, who was sprawled and letting it all hang out like Marlon Brando.
Speaking of food: One thing about the County Fair is everything comes deep-fried and on a stick. In addition to the regular corndog, I saw (but dared not eat) pizza, Twinkies, Moon Pies, Oreos, and Snickers bars, all deep-fried and on a stick. It was as though I had entered a different dimension: the deep-fried-and-on-a-stick dimension. I imagined all kinds of things deep-fried and on a stick. Lobsters? Moth balls? Typewriters? My friends searched for something not deep fried and on a stick; they settled for a turkey leg. My bottomless bag of popcorn was refillable.
Which was a pretty good deal, because nothing's cheap at the Fair. After a long drive, you're out $12 just to be there: that's $5 parking and $7 adult admittance. We bought a bottled water and a 16-ounce Coke for $6.50. The rides are basically $5 a pop, and the booth jockies take tickets, too. A family of five would easily have to spend a couple hundred to ride some rides, play a few games of chance, eat a meal and leave with souvenirs.
But that's just what people did, and they did it because the County Fair is freakin' cool! Hopefully we won't move it any further out (or it'll be in Benson!), but it's totally worth the drive.
Exiting, I passed a booth I had seen on the way in: "Body Piercing--Hospital Sterilization." I didn't see anyone get pierced or sterilized (though some clearly needed the latter), but I did see a lot of people having a great time. Nearby was the "Mystery Tunnel" ($2). Whatever it was, it had an "in" door and an "out" door, and it's only decoration/explanation was the silhouette of a person falling through space. I didn't go in, since it was already worth more than two bucks just the way it was.