Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I enjoyed watching the G and CA enjoy the Arlington County Fair since they were so bright-eyed about all its offerings. There was fried dough to cram down their maws, baby/genetically miniaturized animals to pet, other less cute animals to race, wilted produce to judge and giant stalks of corn to be amazed by. (An impressive 8 feet).

But the D and I are much more experienced fairgoers. We’ve been to several real Midwest county fairs. We’ve seen 4 generations of pigs in one pen. I’ve been amazed by truly gigantic stalks of corn. (19 feet 7 inches) I’ve watched baby/genetically miniaturized animals drag their captors around on sleds. I’ve seen Grand Funk Railroad.

Since the county fair season is at its midpoint and some may still be making the trek to faraway places with names like Prince Williams, I thought I’d offer a few insider hints about things to keep a an eye out for.

#1 – Actors in giant costumes or giant actors in appropriately sized costumes.

Called “Strolling Characters” in the county fair business, these towering body puppets main jobs are to terrorize children and not crush people. I believe Rock-it the Robot to be the most famous in this class of entertainment but he and I had an unpleasant encounter at a fair a few years ago. Naturally, I challenged him to a dance-off and even awarded him the advantage by mandating that "The Robot" be the only allowable dance. Things became unpleasant when he refused to participate.

The Arlington County fair had a “green” theme to it this year so in addition to encouraging everyone to move closer to their jobs and lose their cars, they brought in Treebeard to amaze the locals.

Judging by the man in the FBI hat, he was unsuccessful.

#2 – Works of art by local amateurs judged by less amateurish amateurs

Most of the entries are photographs. Some are pretty good and could possibly make it into a calendar of generic landscapes or a Windows desktop theme. Most were terrible. One was of an old woman in a wingback chair eating a Pop-tart on Christmas morning a half second before a leaping black cat landed on her head. Another was one of those pictures King’s Dominion will sell you after riding the Grizzly. I’m not really sure how that qualified under the rules.

The other categories were sewing (a Christmas stocking featuring a rabbit in the snow that read TRACY), doll design (a stuffed bear made from an old fur coat dressed like a fairy princess) and sculpting (a five-legged clay crab with Snoopy painted on its shell).

Also, painting.

This here is the winner. Subtlety titled Car With Explosion, it won all the best ribbons. My initial reaction was to chuckle disbelieving but I bet painting a BMW fleeing a giant explosion at what appears to be a church (based on the flying steeple) is probably tough for a high school student. I know we didn’t attempt gasoline fireballs until my second year of Studio Art in college.

#3 – No matter how far north or progressive or urban you think your county is, at some point a carnie will try to separate you from your money with the promise of cheap yet surprisingly disordered Confederate paraphernalia.

This example features a ring toss game in which the victor qualifies to win one of three non-sanctioned CSA flags. The first shows the Stars and Bars over what I believe is the mock explosion used on a 1970s-era box of Tide laundry detergent. The second flag shows a skull with faintly glowing eyes, sporting a Crocodile Dundee hat, guarding a second Confederate flag with two sabers and a rattlesnake.

The final is the most Daedalian. From what I can figure, it uses your basic Confederate flag as a background with the words Rebel “Til” I Die superimposed in the center. (Not sure why the Til is in quotes.) Under the motto appears to be the blue, translucent head of a seal or possibly a chupacabre with two motorcycles coming out the side.

It just screams “Welcome to Arlington. We hope you enjoy your stay.”

I hope these three tidbits enhance you fair-going experience. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go win this giant, stuffed Sebastian the Crab.

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