County fair culture — part two


Dear friends in England:

As previously promised, I have done more documentation on the woodsy American hayseed-fests known collectively as “county fairs” in an attempt to share genuine New World “culture” with our overseas cousins.

This is an undercover operation in which I indulge every year, walking among the native cornfed clodhoppers of the rustic Midwest. There is a dual purpose: For me, to gorge on deep-fried Wisconsin cheese curds, sausages, and frozen bananas. For my hot wife (above), to pet various mammals of the “cute” variety (ponies, pygmy goats, the odd unsuspecting floppy-eared bunny rabbit).


The key is to use tremendous quantities of sanitary antibacterial lotion so as not to contract some nasty bumpkin disease like salmonella, E. coli, or typhoid fever. Also, to avoid stepping in steaming hot pavement pies, if you know what I mean. The shit is everywhere. I worry that I breathe in an awful lot of latent particulate that’s just floating around in the air. It gets there when the farmers clean their animals like so:


By the way, don’t become to attached to ol’ Bessy up there. She was being washed outside the fair auction house Saturday afternoon just before she was led inside to be sold by the quarter to the highest bidder. I’m sure she’ll make some tasty steak or rump roast.

This beauty, however, is sure to make some excellent pie. Or 40 pies. Whatever. It is the prize-winner for Largest Pumpkin at 434 pounds (197 kg). The girl only weighs 60 kg.


I didn’t really touch on judging in my former post re county fairs. One of the main components of said yokel affairs is the submission of and professional evaluation of best local-grown fruit and vegetable specimens, animals, pies and other baked goods, paintings and drawings, photography, flower arrangements, pencil collections, LEGO creations, canned jams, your mom, hand-made furniture, bee hives, milk samples….

Yes, there are blue ribbons. I even spotted an elaborate and disproportionately grandiose trophy — three and a half feet tall and gold-embossed — for the Best In Show winner of the Sweet Corn category. Here are some award-winning cabbages and onions:


What is a little more difficult to capture on film (lol, nobody uses film anymore) is the size of the whole occasion. Imagine 100,000 people over the course of six days milling around a mile-long loop crammed with food vendors, toothless carnies, salesmen hawking everything from gutters to leathercrafts to new cars, tractors of all sizes on display, barns full of the aforementioned poopmongers, cheap portable ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls and funhouses, political parties, charities, a bloodmobile, and a stadium blaring with the sounds of either A) despicable country music or B) the roar of suped-up engines.


On the sixth day, the grounds are littered with the mashed remnants of french fries, stale vomit, copious pig urine, drunk carnies, toilet paper, lost flip-flops, tears, and the tracts of both office-seekers and quack religious cults (that last one was all kinds of redundant. Sorry). Alone on a park bench, Funny-O the Clown is crying; the last of the animals are being led off to the slaughterhouse while the 12-year-old homesteader girls who raised them weep; and the clean-up crews have lost all hope and turned sullen.

But little girls like this one are still having a blast:


Yes, my wife called me a pedophile for snapping that last photo.

There might be a couple more pics coming if she decides we need to head back to the fairgrounds tonight for one last frenzied romp to see the animals and take one last shot at further clogging our already grease-engorged guts.

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