And so were more vendors dishing up delicious fatty foods then I could have hoped for. Actually, I guess it was really about the number of purveyors of deep fried junk that I expected. And to be completely honest, there was actually one bit of food I wasn’t able to find at this fair, or any in the last three years: frozen key lime pie on a stick. I’ve only ever seen it once, ironically in Florida, where almost nothing else good happens, yet every year I look for it, hoping that this will be the year. But it wasn’t. Instead I had to make a bite of frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick suffice. Don’t get me wrong, it was good; it just wasn’t super tarty limey good. Sigh….
This was, however, the first year we took my son to the fair. We waited until things cooled down a bit and met friends in front of the DNR pavilion. As a kid I used to delight in the fair rides, nearly making myself sick riding the Himalaya, or in really good years, the Flying Bobs*, so many times in a row that I’d lose track. Every year I made sure to climb the insane number of steps that led to the top of the super slide. I silently prayed going around the Ferris wheel that we wouldn’t get stopped too near the top, and then cursed my luck when we always did**. One year, before I lost my taste for all fair rides, I was even persuaded to ride a horrible contraption that was a double Ferris wheel with cages instead of gondolas because they also spun, leaving me upside down for far too long. I did a lot of cursing, which probably wasn’t great since the carnival was at a private Jesuit school.
The fair has been a tradition for me for as long as I can remember. Every summer when I’d visit my dad, he’d take me to the local county fair. My grandfather would spend the whole year collecting aluminum cans and as soon as I arrived, we’d take them to the recycling center. After watching the cans get loaded into the big aluminum crusher thingy, we’d get our slip of paper and head to the cashier. Each year I stood in eager anticipation as the cashier counted the bills into my grandfather’s hand. I knew that as soon as she’d handed over the last penny, he’d hand the money over to me. It was my “fair fund” and I got to spend every bit of it on whatever I wanted at the fair. Oddly, my grandfather never went with us to the fair. He just liked showing me how many bags he’d collected and spending time with me gathering them up, taking them in and watching my face light up when the money was turned over. Man, he was an awesome guy.
Although we never made it to the state fair, I had so much fun at the county ones, that I am determined my son should have the same traditions and the same fond memories.
Since my son isn’t quite a year and a half, he wasn’t too interested in the rides. It probably helped that we didn’t walk down the rows and rows of rides. He was far more interested in the people around him. The only one that even kind of caught his eyes was the carousel, which makes sense since we ride the one at the local children’s museum every visit. He reached out for it and made a few noises, but when we passed by it was soon forgotten.
He was less forgetful when it came to the food though. Our first taste of the fair was offered up by friends who had heaping plates of deep fried potatoes. Despite my love of French Fries, I’m not quite as much of a fan of the deep fried spiral cut ones. My son, however, LOVED them. He’s never had any chips and only one French Fry, and this was salty fried heaven for him. He kept reaching his little hands out, begging for more. I felt kind of bad giving them to him, since sugar, salt and anything fried are not part of his diet (he doesn’t even get juice yet), but I figured this once wouldn’t hurt him. I also applied this logic to the deep fried cheese sticks my husband bought. I pulled eewy-gooey stringy cheese out of the breading and handed it over to my greedy little boy’s hands. When he had a bit, I tried to nibble a stick. As soon as he saw the stick go near my mouth, he wanted more. I think he may have eaten more cheese than I did. Luckily he doesn’t like pickles, so I got my deep fried ones all to myself.
I also made the mistake of letting him see my cherry lime slushy. One taste and he was hooked. It didn’t help that after I had one (and let everyone taste it), two others bought one, so he was surrounded by them. He kept reaching out for another drink. He had red ice running down his face and outfit, but he loved it.
In one of the buildings my son saw a girl with a balloon. There is very little my son loves in this world more than balloons. Every time we go into the grocery store and he sees them in that damn card/flower section, he clamors for one. I feel bad every time we leave without one because he obviously loves them, but paying $3.50 for a stupid balloon each shopping trip seems ridiculous. As I was telling him we’d find him a balloon, the mother stopped me and offered her daughter’s. It’s not cruel like it sounds. The girl was probably nine and was going to let it go outside the pavilion. I gladly took it, tied it to his stroller and made him instantly happy. I felt a little bad when I saw what my son was advertising: it said “Smile, your mom chose life.” Granted, I obviously did, but there is something about groups pandering to children and their love of balloons to get their message across that really bothers me. I don’t like the idea of my son’s balloon espousing a very heated political/moral stand. Especially since it’s one I have problems with. I couldn’t take the balloon away though. See, that’s how they get ya.
My son wasn’t nearly as excited about the animal barns as I thought he’d be. He’s going through a real animal phase. He’s learning what they say and can actually give his versions of their sounds (the cat’s meow sounds a bit like a squeak, which is funny since it is kind of what one of his cats sounds like). He really wanted to touch them, but at the same time was a bit afraid when the donkeys turned to look at him. He really seemed to like the piglets, but wasn’t quite sure what to make of the sheep. I’m sure it didn’t help that they were all shaved and the ones in his books are the cute and fluffy kind. Still, I was hoping he’d like the animals a bit more. Granted, his lack of interest could have stemmed from the fact that it was pushing 8:00 and even on a late day, he’s in bed by then.
We decided to wrap it up and head home. We said goodbye to our friends and turned the stroller to the parking lot. We were home and the baby was in bed by 9. Amazingly, despite only taking a 30 minute nap at the sitter’s, he was in a great mood the entire evening. He threw no fits and seemed pretty content.
Hopefully next year when he can talk and maybe even walk a little of the fair, he’ll like it even more.
*The Flying Bobs, in case you’ve never seen them are like the Himalaya. They go around in circles, really fast, but they aren’t attached at the bottom, so they also swing. If you move your body just right, they swing out pretty darn far.
**I’m slightly scared of heights and yet always got dragged on the Ferris wheel.