Monday, August 29, 2016

I set my calendar by the State Fair

The world always seems to be divided into two kinds of people; this week, it’s those that LOVE state fairs and those that groan and say, “Oh, not that again.” I’m in the first group. Come August, when it dawns on me that the State Fair is imminent, visions of quilt shows, funnel cake, and giant vegetables dance in my head.

In fact, I think the State Fair is a perfect Third Third activity. Every funnel cake or pet rabbit triggers a memory of prior funnel cakes, prior rabbits. They sweeten the whole day, but then you find a magician who’s brand new, and he’s terrific, too.

Judith and I go together. Judith is an especially valued friend, but she was especially valued when we traveled with our two girls: Judith can do rides. I throw up on merry-go-rounds. Judith can do them all, but thank goodness, those days are over. We don’t even enter ride territory any more.

Judith and I walk in the Red Gate and check the time. Every hour on the hour is the quilt show so we have to figure out where we’ll be. The quilt show is mandatory, just like visiting Paul, our friend and bonsai guy.

Right off the bat, this year’s Fair amazed us with the prehistoric mammals exhibit. Woolly Mammoths, Sabre-toothed Cats, the Giant Sloth. New to me: the Terror Crane, a giant Big Bird-type creature set up right next to the herd of tiny horses. According to the signage, the little horses had big brains, and the Diatryma (the crane) may or may not have been carnivorous or herbivorous. Except that the exhibit clearly had the possibly vegetarian bird eating a little horse (despite its big brain). All these prehistoric mammals moved and shook a bit. A New Thing and we hadn’t even been in the Fair ten minutes!
Next Judith and I caught Antwan Towner, “comedy magician and mind reader.” He was great! He’d reach into his shiny silver briefcase, preparing us for the next trick. “Wait till you see this!”
His sleight of hand was wonderful, but it’s his patter that delighted me. And the mind reading. I don’t know how he did it. He couldn’t have replaced a whole audience of kids and parents with his own prearranged confederates. I just don’t get how he did it. You go – tell me!

Sometimes, in the Irwin Building, we talk to the wood folks, sometimes the sewing women, sometimes the spinners. Then sometimes it’s the Demo Derby, sometimes the lumberjack show; this year, it was the Tractor Pull.

It took us years to discover Raven Hall, the “slice-it-dice-it” building. Now we relish the pitches and the gadgets. That’s where I’ve fought off the lotion people, the chaga people, the Noni juice people. But that’s also where I got my favorite Cutco knives, where I check out the new Pampered Chef offerings.
Judith and I have worn a path of memory through the Fair. We head to where Southcentral Foundation usually has a booth; where are they? Where’s the potato chip guy, he’s usually right over here. And was there no Visit Juneau booth or did we miss Pampered Chef? I still miss those Racing Pigs.

This is what life does, too: change, take away some things, give us New Things.

But the Fair always has to give us … Fair Food. First Judith and I get something healthy, like salmon quesadillas. Then it’s The Big Decision: on to the funnel cakes for me and corn fritters for Judith. Then the dipped ice cream. Then….

Every inch of the Fair is a memory: my first visit to the Rat Race when I’d just moved here and I thought Alaska was INSANE; the time infant Sophie fell off a straw bale in the petting zoo and was buried in rabbits; the Kirby vacuum guy who then made a house call; the reptiles that still give me the total creeps. The sauerkraut lesson Judith and I took; my total envy when I first spied the Cabbage Fairies’ outfits. One year, I even told stories on the Colony Stage!
My memories are sweet to me, maybe just lists to you. (What’s on your list?) But we all have our places that stay the same/change over time, those places that have taken root in our lives. Like Thanksgiving Dinner, the State Fair comes back year after year, bringing fond memories, good stories … and turkey legs.

1 comment:

  1. Oysters. Tamales. Cookies. How do we make it home with our stomachs intact?


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