Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair

The county fair is underway back in Smalltownland.

For my family, this meant a great many things: that my sister would spend time on Kids' Day chasing a piglet covered in Crisco (yes, they had a Greased Pig Contest), someone would tell me after the dog show that our English Pointer was a 'good lookin' dog' (whereupon I'd have to explain that Bozo was none too bright), and I'd be chastised by the cooking contest chairwomen for entering my chocolate cake in the adult homemakers' contest rather than the 4H baking category (and I won or placed second often enough that by high school it was a real bone of contention).

We also lived on a cliff overlooking the county park, where the fair was held. That meant a week of loud noise, weird smells such as the combination of fried onions and horse manure, and a fireworks display that detonated about thirty yards beyond the lip of the cliff at what was basically, for us, eye-level.

There were beauty pageants, of course, and also, of course, I never entered them because I was a fat girl and my father objected on general principle...his mother was the very first Miss Arizona, and he had a low opinion of any competition that required a woman to stand around, look pretty, and not do anything else. Don't get me wrong; Daddy adored my grandmother. He had seen, however, how having been Miss Arizona was pretty much the big highlight of her life, and how badly other aspects of her (she was as sweet as pie and the most loving, giving soul you could ever have met) were frequently overlooked because it was overshadowed and superseded by "she was the very first Miss Arizona."

One year, my sister decided that she would enter the Miss Junior County Fair pageant at the last possible moment. It was largely motivated by the fact that one of her friends, who had entered far earlier, had developed cold feet, and she wanted to be there for moral support. It was a mad last-minute dash where we ended up borrowing a friend's sister's prom dress (the sister was very tiny) and engaging our hairstylist to fix her hair. Needless to say, in that category, the girls were supposed to be very cutesy. My sister, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful girls to ever come from our county, lost to a girl whose front teeth had recently fallen out (the age category was something like 7-10 years old). Neither my sister nor her friend placed; it was my sister's first and last pageant. Our father did not attend, as he had opposed the whole thing.

There was also a dance at the end of the fair. I went a few times in junior high and high school. I remember one year that it got so hot in the pavilion that I left and sat on the playground swings for almost an hour until Mom came to get me. Sometimes I'd wander around looking for friends to ride the rides with me...although I had a higher tolerance for things like the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Scrambler that caused them to barf. Often as not, I didn't have enough money for tickets, so I'd just hide until it was time to leave.

I also had a single fair-related gastronomical weakness: red candy apples. I was permitted one during the week, so I tried to wait until Thursday or Friday to buy it. I didn't want funnel cakes. I didn't care about cotton candy. I wanted that stupid red candy apple- because I knew I could only have one per year; like anything else containing sugar, they were 'bad for (me)" and 'will make (me) fat'. I'd buy it, and if I didn't finish it, I'd wrap it in the provided doily and take it home; the trick was to finish it before the candy coating melted into a molten slick of sticky goop.

I'll be there over the weekend, but I will enjoy the festivities at a distance rather than brave the park. I'm a little long of tooth for the county fair these days, and I can't stand the taste of those apples anymore.

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