Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coot goes to the State Fair

With a free coupon for admission (thanks, Chris), I went to the State Fair yesterday morning. The people-watching was as delightful as ever. First, it is clear that we deserve to be counted among the most obese states in the country. And second, the 80s are alive and thrivin' here: you'll never see more Rooster Bangs in one place, or more stretchy clothes on bodies that should not be wearing stretchy clothes (see #1). The Rooster Bangs do not seem to be from the rural element, but rather a feature of the urban white trash, which attends the Fair in impressive numbers.

The theme this year -- and I don't know why the State Fair needs a theme -- was The Year of the Tomato. There were tomato plants everywhere, inside and out. Ironically, this has been a terrible year for tomatoes: a record cool July followed by a blistering heat wave. People who are usually giving away bushels are now hoarding their harvests, one scrawny tomato at a time.

My first stop was the Agriculture/Horticulture exhibits. I usually try to see the Dahlia judging: incredible flowers 8-10" across. I missed that particular event this year, and the arrangements on display had been judged a week ago, so they were looking mighty puny. They moved most of the 4-H displays to a different building so I would decide later if I would include that on my tour. I still got to see the state beekeepers' and wineries' displays, and the tallest sunflower, biggest pumpkin, etc. Across the street is the Pioneer building (the seed company, not the ancestors) with displays from our largest ag/hort university as well as the state chicken, lamb, soybean, pork, beef, egg, cheese associations. And not a single free handout, except for coupons for canned tomatoes. I've never stayed to watch, but several times a week, the university demonstrates a live spay or neuter operation.

Just down the road is my favorite stop, the Family Arts Building. On the way there, I check out the food stands to see if there is anything I can stomach -- and afford! -- for lunch. Every year, the food vendors seem to come up with another disgusting thing to deep fry. I'm not sure of the reason for this; it may be just to generate publicity. I really can't imagine eating a deep-fried Twinkie, or Snickers Bar. This year, they actually figured out a way to deep fry a slice of pizza. I guess it wasn't greasy enough? At any rate, I'm not tempted by the usual Fair fare, plus it seems that the average price for a sandwich, burger, etc. has gone up to an outrageous $8 (plus your $3 soda, of course). I don't begrudge those folks a living; it can't be easy standing all day in a hot trailer. But if they can't offer food at a reasonable price, I'd like to see them just stay home.

Ahhh... the Family Arts Building! All the sewing, knitting, crochet, quilting, needlepoint exhibits. Upstairs is the photography exhibit, and I know I'm on cranky overload now. I'm so disappointed: the exhibit seems to be one painfully trite visual cliché after another. It is divided into professional and nonprofessional, and they both share the shame. If they can't exclude these completely, they should at least segregate them into a separate exhibit: old rusty trucks or tractors, weathered barn close-ups, dead leaves, reflections in a water droplet, ancient wrinkled faces, trees silhouetted on a horizon, pouty adolescents, and Yorkies. I would also add a category, something I might call... Saccharine Hyperpatriotism: lots of lightly screened US flags, helmets, dog tags, etc. Let me hasten to add that some of the nature/scenic and travel photographs still took my breath away.

In the basement is my other perennial favorite: paintings, drawings, sculpture, furniture, jewelry and calligraphy. The overall quality here has taken a nosedive, too. I would add a new category here called Shameless Pandering and include all of the artwork that featured tomatoes. Which was a lot. (Or as they say here, "a real lot.") But I'm a lot more tolerant of clichés and questionable subject matter in original art than in photography. I also took a turn through the decorated cakes, which were okay but didn't compare to the quality I've seen in past years.

Well, that was it for my stamina, especially since I couldn't find anything both affordable and edible for lunch. I missed all the animals, the 4-H exhibit, the DNR, the entertainment, and more. It was a big disappointment compared to years past, but I may be guilty of sentimentalizing just a bit. Speaking of entertainment, their big concert line-up must be a Tribute to Diversity: everything from Journey, Heart and the Oak Ridge Boys (are they wheeled on stage, or can they all still walk?) to Demi Lovato, some chick I've never heard of, who looks about 11 years old. Maybe the latest Disney machine product?

At any rate, I was done, done, done. My back was killing me and I would spend the rest of the day recovering, until the lightning woke me up. That's another story; if it stops raining, maybe a picture, too.

No comments: