August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011

Wisconsin State Fair 2011: Birds and Butter

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a great fan of the Wisconsin State Fair. I can’t say exactly how many I have attended (my parents were sorely lacking as the childhood documentarians), but it’s somewhere between 15 and 20. I originally thought that once I moved away, I’d have to make do with whatever passes for a state fair in Virginia.

Then I looked into it and decided to fly back every year for Wisconsin. Because the Virginia State Fair is little better than one guy with a George Foreman grill.

Though people can and do spend an entire day at the Fair, I’ve streamlined my routine to 4-5 hours of focused sightseeing, eating, and picture taking. Areas of concentration:

1. Animals
2. The Expo Center
3. Freaky Foods and Beverages
4. Prize Winning Whatnot
5. Unusual Shows

Animals. Though the variety of livestock hasn’t changed since I was a kid, observing row after row of bird and beast will never get old. Even dodging cow pies is all in good fun. I have the added bonus of having almost been one of those 4H kids mindlessly picking hay from their overalls: my grandma grew up on a dairy farm in Ashland. Had she not decided to come to the big city (Milwaukee), my geography would have been very different.

The Expo Center. You haven’t lived until you’ve walked past thousands of booths filled to the brim with wonder mops, sushi masters, and the like. The key is to scope the entire place out as soon as it opens at 9. Any later than that and it will be a seething madhouse of triple-wide strollers. Advice: if you’re going to buy something large or heavy, have them hold it or COME BACK LATER. Do NOT buy it now and lug it around the fair all day. There is a 100% chance I will run into it or spill food on it. Don’t worry that the vendors are going to run out. These people are professionals. They brought enough for everybody and don’t mind lugging the rest to Indiana.

Freaky Foods and Beverages. Some people come to the Fair looking for good summer food. Corn on the cob. Burgers and fries. Lemonade. I say, if I wanted to eat stuff like that, I’d go to the grocery store. When I’m at the fair, I want the weirdest, least-healthy, most stick-i-fied stuff you can give me. One year, this led to the consumption of six deep-fried Oreos with a smore-on-a-stick chaser. Not my finest hour, but you get the idea. Give me animals not regularly consumed since the Oregon Trail. Give me items thrice battered and fried. Give me enough calories-per-bite to shock even Dr. Atkins. This year: deep fried butter and fried mashed potatoes. (Plus my annual deep fried Snickers.)

Prize Winning Whatnot. Perhaps the quaintest part of the Fair: hundreds of cakes and jams and crafts entered in the hopes of getting that elusive blue ribbon. Well, perhaps not THAT elusive; they come up with more and more categories every year. (Many will enter, slightly fewer will win.) Still, I do so enjoy looking at the entrants (especially in the food categories) while wishing they weren’t locked up. It’s like they don’t want me to walk off with all the cheesecakes or something.

Unusual Shows. The Wisconsin State Fair has many events occurring simultaneously all day long. Musical acts, cooking demos, and so on. I’ve seen circuses. I’ve seen lumberjills. I’ve seen magicians and highdivers, too. I was hoping to see the new bear show this year, but everyone else had the same idea so I had no sightline. Luckily, fewer people were interested in the birds of prey demonstration, so I got to see a raptor, a peregrine falcon, and a bald eagle in person. Very cool.

It can be as a long or short a day as you wish. Just plot a good course of action. You can’t see it all, but there’s always next year.

0 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke: