"I'm in the paddock area drinking a beer," my husband replied. "I couldn't believe it - the first thing I saw when I walked in was the pony rides - and you KNOW how I feel about the pony rides."
My husband and I both have huge amounts of guilt about the way animals are treated by us humans. One of the most depressing things either of us ever saw was a pony ride apparatus - where the ponies are hooked up to a giant metal carousel - set up in a parking lot near our house. The ponies just looked so outrageously sad, and the whole thing was just so inhumane and depressing I could hardly stand it. While I am no saint (or vegan) I don't believe in torturing an animal like that for no good reason, or any reason at all come to think of it.
"I'm coming honey," I said.
But first, I was hungry, and not just a little bit. Enough that I decided to stop off on my way to the beer garden and pick up a snack. I stopped by the Hot Dog on a Stick stand but the line seemed to be moving slowly. While I was standing there, a woman walked up to her friend with a huge basket of thick, fresh potato chips. They looked fantastic. I set off in search of the potato chip stand and found it just around the corner. I picked up a big basket of chips ($5.00), sprinkled them with some seasoning salt and filled little paper cups with ketchup and hot sauce. So armed, I headed for the paddock area.
The chips were a hit with my husband and the rest of the table we shared, and we still had leftovers. After inhaling as many as I could without suffering an overdose of grease, and after downing half a beer, I felt much better.
While I like fried food (who doesn't??) and the chips were good, I needed a real meal. The past few times I have visited the fair, I've relied on the giant barbecue stand, which sits squarely in the middle of the fair, to satisfy my craving for something indulgent yet somewhat wholesome. I ordered the barbecued chicken with sides of coleslaw and beans. I like ribs, but there's nothing like chicken when it's falling off the bone tender with a crispy skin. Ribs can also make you feel a little icky with all the fat and grease, and I had already consumed enough of that. The chicken was especially good (or maybe I was especially hungry) while the beans and coleslaw were fine - the coleslaw was not very sweet - or maybe it just seemed that way in comparison with the sweet beans and barbecue sauce. If you truly want to look like a glutton, the same stand sells large beef ribs and barbecued turkey legs, a la Henry the VIII.
They have a real smoker/grill set up with a wood-stoked fire. Fair warning, they don't take plastic. I had to run back to get some cash from James to pay. At this point, I had been at the fair for a total of about one hour, and I had already spent thirty dollars. Go figure.
The paddock area was pleasant and uncrowded - they had live music, and you can sit on the grass and drink a beer. They had local beers as well as the regular assortment of brews. Stone seemed to be featured, with Arrogant Bastard and their other ales.
After lolling around on the grass for an hour or so (we are an industrious lot!) we figured we better get busy checking out the rest of the attractions. We got the serious sales pitch from the hot tub salesman (the one with the waterfall, built in stereo and pop up t.v. was looking pretty good!) and wandered through the shop stalls selling airbrushed t-shirts and license plate frames down to the Farrells that sits at the West end of the building. I had seen this a couple of months ago when I went to the Restoration Hardware warehouse sale at the fairgrounds, back in May.
The temporary set-up didn't disappoint, with its' dazzling display of chewy, sour, sweet and crunchy candies. They even had BB Bats and Kits, which I haven't seen since I was a kid. I was still full of barbecue and potato chips so I passed on the ice cream and candy, but my husband got a strawberry cone. I never order strawberry ice cream, and I always forget how good it is.
After James won me a stuffed Curious George (which I bestowed on my friend Sara's daughter Bailey) we proceeded to my favorite part of the fair, the art displays and handicrafts. The displays of painting and drawing, wood working, jewelry, photography and other arts are always inspiring. We even thought we might try to buy something, but unfortunately, the one thing I really wanted - a cool Japanese wood block - was marked not for sale. We had fun looking at the current year books for our respective high schools (Santana for him, University City for me) and by that time we were ready to call it a day.
On the way out, we walked by the stand selling the deep fried Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers and such. The new addition this year was deep-fried avocado. I had considered taste-testing these delicacies for your benefit, readers, but I am sorry to report that I just couldn't do it. I did however, conduct an informal survey of several people who claimed to have sampled the assortment, and the consensus seems to be go for the Snickers. I can also vouch for the cinnamon roll, and another friend of mine swears by the funnel cakes - so there you have it, for the next time you're inclined to indulge at the Fair!