The State Fair runs every August for (I think) twelve days, ending on Labor Day. And because my weekends are devoted to the Renaissance Festival at the same time, I have to fit it in where I can.
I like it more every year I'm there.
James, as it turns out, has never really been a fan, but I like to think that going there with me is changing his attitude. We can now spend an entire day there together from dawn until dark, and he'll patiently look at every quilt and 4-H project I choose to ponder. However, the one thing I think he could happily live without is the Annual Touring of the Animal Barns....
It was a great idea.
However, I slept through my morning alarm, then missed my first bus to the State Fair shuttle point, and then was annoyed and dismayed to discover that what was supposed to be a shuttle point wasn't.... Hours that could've been spent seeing farm animals were rapidly slipping away.
As it turned out, James had arrived at the Fair just moments before me. We began our day in the International Bazaar by checking out the merchandise in the Irish on Grand booth and sampling some new (to us) State Fair foods. First on the list were the lamb 'fries' at the Holy Land Deli (tasty), and then the beef tongue caramelos at Sonora Grill (not so much....). And over the course of the day we sampled smoked pig ankles, SPAM curds, and bacon ice cream, as well as a host of other State Fair faves like Pronto Pups and cheese curds.
I stood in line for a free tube of pickle-flavored lip balm. I wore a paper mosquito hat so tall that it kept bumping into things. I dodged strollers, trod through manure, watched strands of fluffy cotton candy float away on the breeze, smelled barbecue and heard calliope tunes. I saw beauty queens carved in butter, ate chocolate-covered bacon, drank cold Culligan water, listened to banjo pickers. I shook hands with the Vita-Mix lady who sold me my appliance over 15 years ago and told her that I still use it every day. I collected literature on how to raise rabbits and how to compost kitchen scraps in a bin under the sink. I ate more ice cream in one day than I have all year! I thought my feet were going to fall off....
I like all the barns, but the Poultry Barn is one of my faves. (No surprise: the Horse Barn is another, but by the time James and I get to the Fair, most of the stalls seem empty....) James found a bench for resting his feet and closing his eyes, and I made a bee-line for the chickens.
All the while I was in the Poultry Barn, I kept encountering an elderly man in a suit and a straw cowboy hat. A young woman was pushing him in a wheelchair. They stopped at every cage and he whispered to each bird. It made me think about farms and the farmers who love them. It reminded me of the story Sam Stuart shared with me of his 80-year-old friend who was offered millions for the acreage surrounding his homestead but stubbornly wouldn't sell. It made me think of the farms that are disappearing.... And my inner Farmgirl, stuck here in the 'burbs with a deep yearning for wide open spaces, kind of wept for him.
It was a day full of happy and sad and wonder and awesome.
It was just a normal day at the Fair.