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Remember the FAIR?
I am writing you from a hotel in Silverdale, WA. No, I’m not performing here. I just realized a few weeks ago that the best way to combat high gas prices was to have kids that are too young to realize that a ferry ride and a 15 minute drive isn’t really traveling. To them, we’re on vacation. Someday, they’ll know better. And someday they’ll know I’m not really a famous juggler/astronaut.
So today we went to the Kitsap County Fair (but had to park in Pierce County). I had no idea of the type of money you’ll spend at a fair but I hope to get our wedding rings out of hock by Christmas. It’s like Vegas without the free drinks or slight chance of winning.
Today has made me appreciate my parents that much more. I started having memories of the all too popular 50th State Fair which I realize now sucks cash out of a parent’s pocket like a shop-vac with a turbine engine. For a long time the 50th State Fair had been held at the Aloha Stadium but I can sort of remember when it was at McKinley high school (it was so long ago, I believe the admission price was two sheckles and a goblet).
This is going to sound bad but my parents would drop us off at the fair. Now before you start judging, you need to know this: everyone did. The general rule of thumb was that you should be within a 20-mile radius of your child. It does seem a bit shocking:
“Hey, where are your kids?”
“Under the watchful eye of carnies.”
“Cool. We go eat.”
The fair is a crash course in budgeting for a kid. You have two hours to kill and enough money to last about 3 minutes. The main culprit? Rides. Some of the rides I saw today were pretty cool but in my day what passed for a ride was basically a lawn chair tied to a broom handle glued to a pottery wheel (of course, in the McKinley days you would just jump on an old mattress.) I used to love going on rides which is ironic considering the fact that as an adult I get motion sick from pushing a wobbly shopping cart.
The other big cost of the fair, at least for me, was the food. Sure you ate before you got there and will eat when you get home, but there’s something special about food cooked in a metal hut completely free of anything resembling a health inspection. The king of the fair food land was, of course, cotton candy. Cotton Candy has the same effect on a kid’s body as pouring sugar intravenously into a vein. There should be kiddie rehabs for cotton candy addiction. If the makers of cotton candy had to list the ingredients (and why don’t they?), it would look like this:
INGREDIENTS: Sugar, barbiturates, and pink or blue.
Then there are the games. You know this year you’ll win, especially when you see the kid from school with a huge stuffed animal, and he eats paste. There are many different ways to win. You could knock down three milk bottle shaped pieces of metal with a ball of yarn. Or you could throw a 10-inch diameter basketball through an 8-inch diameter hoop. Or you could throw an unevenly weighted dart through the center of a helium molecule. Basically you’ll spend lots of money and wind up at the fishing booth where everyone gets something. Unless you’re under the age of two, this is incredibly humiliating, especially when the paste-eater laughs at your plastic whistle, then hits you in the back of the head with his 5-foot Snoopy.
So there it is, you’ve been on some rides, played some games, had a dinner that included corn dogs and fried ice cream, and now all you have to show for it is a plastic whistle and a stomach that feels like a washing machine on spin cycle. And you have an hour to kill. You go over to the performing stage and watch whatever they offer, be it a Japanese pop singer, or dogs that jump through hoops, or a sound tech putting away extension cords. That last half hour is tough. You and your sister watching other people enjoy the fair while you come down off your sugar buzz and fight over the whistle. It’s like an alcoholic walking out of the bar to a sunlight morning. It’s not a pretty picture.
Then you go out to the pickup point to wait for Mom. It’s the only time you’re ever early for a pickup. As the car pulls away you can’t imagine a better place to spend an evening. This was before the days of Chuck E Cheese and Dave and Busters so anything with lights and loud music was very intense (of course, in the McKinley days it was torches and harpsichords).
Luckily, my kids are too young to experience the fair the way I’ve just described. Even so, I spent a good sum of money today. In a few years the only way I’ll be able to pay for a day at the fair would be to actually become a juggler/astronaut. Until then, the money saving lies will continue. Our next trip? The enchanted land of Everett.
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