I was telling people it would be my first time at a county fair, any county fair. The responses I received in return were mostly based on some variation of the theme shock. I then had a friend remind me that I had once attended the Marin County Fair in the county directly north, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
So, yes, I am a fraud. But in my limited defense, one of the wealthiest, most liberally elitist counties in the entire country produced a different type of fair than the kinds that I think count as the true American experience I have so often heard about.
My Friday afternoon at the Erie County Fair, in my opinion, was my first time at a real county fair. As someone wise pointed out to me, you won’t be getting any Thai tofu with peanut sauce on a stick here.
I have to say, though, that I would almost want to go back. I was there to help test weird fair foods, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of rides and attractions. You can get a sense of what kind of local Christmas tree you want in August.
The planner in me went crazy. You can leap from a 30 foot free-standing tower onto a large bag of air (albeit for for $10 a pop or $20 a three pop), something I have watched many YouTube videos on and would have killed to do as a kid. After fasting for many hours leading up to the fair, I was even enticed by the omnipresent scent of fried dough.
I’m not in the market for a tractor, or any farming equipment for that matter, but I was impressed by and interested in what felt like the new models of what felt like over 50 machines. This might be might city-dweller ignorance talking, but I had no idea there were so much necessary equipment this day and age for people who work the land.
There were also many displays of hot tubs and above-ground pools. I couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation why people coming to a county fair would be there to look at these, but it was amusing nonetheless.
I know it happens every year, and I know people might be sick of it, but it really seemed like one of those last vestiges of true American fun, the kind that you don’t appreciate until one day it’s gone. Some may complain about the crowds, the over-priced add-ons, the ridiculously fatty foods (maybe I hang out with too many snobs).
But there’s something wonderful about walking around in the heat with a full stomach and wondering why you did that. There’s something cathartic about getting on a rickety ride and screaming until you lose your voice. There’s a reason you keep going, and there’s a reason new patrons, like me, think it’s a big deal to attend and will gladly live tweet the experience.
The only thing that was missing on my first trip was fried butter. I was promised fried butter.