Lileks: Consider this after a long week at the fair

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2012 - 8:35 PM

Some random observations about the ongoing situation in Falcon Heights we call the fair.

• As you might have heard, there was a robbery of a food booth. Two crooks snuck in after dark and found an unlocked safe; they stole about $24,000, which would cover a family of four if they didn't do the Kidway. They were caught. If they're sentenced to ride the Strasosphere for a year, does that mean they get a suspended sentence?

Sorry. It's been a long week.

• This is heresy, I know. But. Please. Smaller portions. It's always like this:

16 oz. Fried Carbs $5.

32 oz. Fried Carbs $5.25 BEST VALUE

64 oz. Fried Carbs $42.50

You think: why, I'm being virtuous and frugal. There are times, however, you just don't want a pound of fried carbs. I know, I know: No one's forcing you to eat those fries, aside from the fact that they're dusted with crack and boiled in heroin and you can't stop eating them until you feel like someone covered your entire body with Crisco and replaced your blood with motor oil. If fair fries were any more addictive, they'd introduce a filtered brand and make you eat them standing 20 feet from the front entrance.

Suggestion, then, for a new stand: HARDLY MUCH OF ANYTHING! Small portions of everything at the fair. A bag of three mini donuts. A sack of French fries you could mail with one first-class stamp. An elephant ear that did not appear to be a 1:1 replica of an actual elephant ear. Cinnamon buns that cannot be mistaken for an ottoman. Charge twice as much for a fourth of the portion, and you'll make a fortune.

I'm serious. It's getting to the point where deep-fried watermelon is next and you'll get a 10-pound object you have to put in a sling around your neck to eat. The "About a Yard Long Hot Dog" is inevitable, too, sold with beer in 32-gallon drums on wheels and a garden hose.

• One of the most famous grandstand shows was the collision of two train engines, head-on, full steam. Perhaps you've seen the pictures. I always thought about the guy who'd been sent for root beer, found himself in a long line under the bleachers, heard a ghastly crash and explosion outside and thought: Dagnabit. Well, I'll just have to catch the 2:30 head-on collision, then. Sorry, Charlie. They only did it once.

Bring back the train-wreck attraction! But adjust it for modern audiences. Do it light-rail style. Everyone takes their seats, and there's a 6-month period open for public input to decide where the lines should go, and then the commission votes to put them where they want them anyway, and then there's construction, and finally -- just before the fireworks -- the cars barrel down the tracks, heading straight for each other, only to automatically brake at the last second as the safety system trips. The front of the cars touch, and there's a tinkling of glass from one of the rear-view mirrors. Sure-fire sensation.

• Speaking of mayhem: Your cellphone, if improperly secured on a ride, will shoot out of your pocket like a missile fired from a Predator drone. One such item landed 16 inches to my left when I was bending down to take a picture. It would've gone through my skull if so aimed.

The last thing I would have seen would have been Angry Birds throwing me toward the light.

• Finally: Heritage Square needs a refresh. The historical exhibits haven't been updated in decades -- or dusted, it seems. In the circus train, for example, there's a car devoted entirely to Ice Capades memorabilia. Old crusty skates hang from the roof. Perfect for those fairgoers who live on the edge. First we hit the Deli Express booth for a gas-station hamburger, then drink some Culligan water, then head straight for the skates! Katie bar the door!

At the nearby State Fair Museum, there's just too much. Plaques, pictures, sheet music, maps and a hundred other pieces of ephemera are thrown up on the wall behind thick old rippling plastic, grouped by JFK-era categories like "WAR AND SPACE." It's time to strip it down, bring out some unseen treasures from the archives. There's a vintage electric chair, for heaven's sake. Bring it outside and hook it up, let folks pose for pictures.

On second thought, given this year's ride malfunctions: maybe not.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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