Fair Games

October 15, 2014

Essays for Giggles

ferris wheel


Since the Alabama National Fair has drawn to a close for 2014, I now offer my observations and tips for next year:


Observation #1 – Visiting the livestock barn each year makes me want a pet rabbit. If visiting the livestock barn makes you or someone in your family, want a pet rabbit or duck, to start raising chickens or quail, to think that a live peacock would be a delightful addition to your front lawn, or that you have the ability to dig your own goldfish pond, go home, take two aspirin and lie down.  This urge will pass within 72 hours… but gird your loins for the rearing of its ugly head every year.


Observation #2 – What is it that , despite all evidence to the contrary, makes the life of a carny look romantic? Even as I look at the chain-smoking, tatted, clearly fringe element of our society working the rides, I gaze longingly at their motor homes behind the chain link fence and imagine cozy nights of romance with the elephant trainer.

Even as I stare at their bored, apathetic faces, and acknowledge the monotony of operating a fair ride for ten hours a day, I imagine their life of adventure.

Knowing that most, if not all, of them are drifters, druggies and alcoholics, ex-cons and possibly on the sex offender registry (or should be), I still imagine that at night, they are dancing and singing around a bon fire, fireflies darting about their heads, without a care in the world.


Observation #3 – The fair is a freakin’ money pit. Folks out there are literally hemorrhaging money.  Dollar bills are pouring out their veins and twenties are spurting from their jugulars.  Fair food rivals the cost of Disney World… yet… you know… it’s not Disney World.  For a $5 shaved ice or a $3 bottle of water, you do not get Disney’s world class technology and entertainment, but bald-headed prisoners from the local jail picking up trash as part of their work release program.

Here’s what I do: first, I take a big tote and place inside it my insulated lunch bag that holds six bottles of water and a couple quart baggies of ice cubes (more on that later).  Then, I add a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for each attendee in my party – an item that does not require refrigeration, thereby reducing the likelihood of contracting food poisoning, and some additional packaged snacks for all.

This allows us to stave off hunger, resist the desire to walk around gnawing on a giant $10 turkey leg like a feudal warlord, and indulge in only a single favorite fair item… such as the deliciously decadent, artery-clogging, funnel cake – deep fried dough rolled in powdered sugar, ‘cause the fair likes to keep their snacks classy.

Don’t laugh, ‘cause they were also selling a deep-friend Oreo cookie to which even my 9-year-old charges said, “That’s gross.”


Observation #4 – If you attend the fair in one of the swamp states: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana et al or the dry heave states: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona etc. – then, even in mid-October, you have to take precautions to survive the heat.

Back to those baggies of ice cubes in my lunch tote that I mentioned  – sure, they keep my water cold, but when you also pack lots of paper towels and/or wash cloths, they make wonderful ice packs.

Roll a few cubes in a towel or cloth and press it against your forehead or the back of your neck for instant core-body-temperature reduction.

And yes, the ice will melt, but that leaves you with baggies of deliciously ice-cold water, all the better to dip those survival cloths of yours in so you can avoid a heatstroke or full-on medical hyperthermia.

My other tip: bring an umbrella. Folks in Seattle might be confused by this recommendation, but those of us who have survived a child’s soccer game in May in Alabama know that an umbrella protecting you from direct sunrays can save you a good five degrees, which around here, could mean life or death.


Observation #5 – Are carnival games not passé by now? Who, but the most in-bred among us, doesn’t understand the actual physics of these games?  They may not be technically impossible, but the odds are not forever in your favor.  I have noted in recent years that games of chance have taken a different tack – everybody wins – but what you win is worth 90% less than what it just cost you to play (think Chuck E. Cheese’s).

I think the advent of Dollar Tree, and its ilk, have been the long, slow death knell to these games. When you see that their “small” prize is literally the exact same item that you can get at Dollar Tree – for a dollar – and the cost to play is $5, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to tell your kid you’ll take them to Dollar Tree after the fair, give them five bucks, and let them “win” five things!  The two days I spent at the fair, I found the game operators to be nearly desperate for customers – ranging from bored to strident as they hollered after me, “You let ‘em play Mom, I’ll let ‘em win.”

I went on the two slowest days of their run, so maybe they were busier on the first few nights, but the only people I saw playing were a few hard core folks who were taking a break from the casino, and would be better off at a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting.

I say it is time to retire this ancient pastime. It seems to no longer be financially beneficial to the operators due to a more sophisticated populace, and attending the fair will be better for all of us without these games of “chance.”  At least I will be able to walk up and down the boardwalk without repeatedly saying, “Sorry.  No, but thank you. Thanks, but no.  No, thanks.  Sorry.”

So, to sum up:  do not commit a decade of your life to caring for farm animals immediately following a trip to the fair, don’t leave your spouse to run away with the Ringmaster, take a sandwich and a bag of ice with you, and don’t be lulled by the promise of winning a giant pink bear.  Where the hell would you put it anyway?

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About reneadijab

Renea Dijab

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One Comment on “Fair Games”

  1. Barbara Chioffi Says:

    Loved this. It reminded me of the many fairs I attended when young. 60 years ago, they were a big adventure.


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