Lileks: Please, fair vendors, can we have less wonderful stuff?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:20 AM

Notes from the State Fair, 2014.

1. Saw a lady carrying a yardstick. This used to be much more common. You wonder if people fought duels with them if their honor had been slighted, slapping and whacking the neon-hued sticks until exhausted. Even though you can still get a yardstick at the Farmer’s Union booth, it seems a lot of people now think “You know, I’m probably not going to be measuring much today,” and if they come across something that requires measuring on the way home it’s a chance they’re willing to take.

The lady laid the yardstick down in the gutter and said, “I just can’t, I don’t know why I even” and walked away. This would have been shocking in the old days; at least have the decency to leave it at the Yardstick Foundling Hospital, where nuns will take it in.

It was also surprising because no one litters at the fair. We don’t think it’s our personal place, but it’s like your father-in-law’s back yard. You show some respect.

2. No one walks around and smokes anymore. Oh, I saw one guy on the Midway with a stogie the size of a the leg on a piano bench, but the Midway is a different place.

Otherwise people go to the smoking areas. Do you see any prominent NO SMOKING signs? I don’t. Smokers understand that they must report to the Designated Area wherever they are; it’s just the way things are. When they get to heaven the location of the Designated Area will be one of their first questions, after “Where’s my dog?”

3. People walking around chewing on enormous turkey legs makes you think of medieval English kings, somehow; they should have an ermine robe and a sploshing goblet of ale and be yelling about France.

4. Speaking of olden times: the Greek hoplites were famed for their military prowess, and struck fear into enemy ranks by forming a solid mass of troops that advanced with relentless determination. Order was maintained under the most desperate of circumstances, and you could not cut through their rows once they had formed up, and they did not waver until their objective had been met.

The same principle applies to the line at Sweet Martha’s.

When it extends back 10 rows wide and 30 people long, you can’t cut through lengthwise without a chainsaw and a running start. People do not move. OBJECTIVE: BUCKET. Everything else is irrelevant.

5. Speaking of buckets: While I appreciate the idea that you can walk up to a stand that sells delicious hot French fries and say, “I’ll have a gallon,” I am surprised no one has invented a strap that lets you hang the bucket around your neck. The strap could have pouches for condiment cups, enabling simultaneous dipping and walking.

It would also be convenient if there was a shallow trough outside the French fries stand, and you could lie on the ground and eat, with workers shoveling fresh batches of fries into the trough as the supply was depleted, applying ketchup and malt vinegar with hoses.

It’s just that good. There are people who watch their weight and check their vitals with a FitBit and have the body fat of an eel who would enter the fair, smell the fries, turn to their spouse and say, “I’ll be face down at the French fries ditch for about an hour. Come get me when you’re done with the barns.”

All rules are off at the fair. We know that. If there was an Orgy Building like there’s a Food Building, people would say, “Well, we’ve been married 25 years and we’re faithful completely but heck, when you’re at the fair, enjoy!” And off to the writhing oil pit.

6. Sometimes a bucket’s too much, though. If your objective is to eat until your pants button pops off like the rivet on an overheated boiler, well, you have this and that and some of this and some cheese curds and some corn because it’s healthy, and then a deep-fried Snickers rolled in cotton candy and drizzled with gravy and rolled in crushed Butterfinger brickle, and then you walk, and then you have to try the Grilled Anaconda Thyroid on a Stick, and then it’s the beer garden, and then you get on the gondola cars and people are alarmed because you’re so heavy the car is dragging on the ground, shedding sparks.

If only the portions were smaller.

Really. Have you noticed there are no samples at the fair, as a rule? That’s because every merchant would go bankrupt. People would just graze, and never buy. If there was a plate of ostrich breast fragments speared with a toothpick, you’d try it and move on. Since there isn’t, and you’re curious, you have to buy the Ostrich Wad on a Dowel for $9, and it is more ostrich than you ever wanted.

I want an About a Foot Long, but it’ll fill me up. So I have exactly 6 inches and toss the rest. I buy a bag of Tom Thumbs and eat four out of eight, so I have room for half a Pronto Pup later, or maybe two-thirds of a Gizmo, or three-eighths of a cup of French fries.

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