I Heart the Fair!

I was a freshman at Oklahoma State University before I realized that the official state fair of Oklahoma wasn’t really in Tulsa, but was, in fact, in Oklahoma City. My confusion should be understandable. There is a fair every fall in Tulsa called the Tulsa State Fair. I had no idea there was ANOTHER state fair. I mean, why? Why two state fairs? I still don’t know. I do know this: I hadn’t been to a state fair since college, much less the actual Oklahoma State Fair, and I really wanted to go.

I found out that this coming Monday, kids through grade 12 get free admission to the fair, so I had been telling my girls for several days if they could get all of their work for Tuesday done over the weekend, we would take Monday off and go to the fair. They were pumped.

Last night I got a phone call reminding me of an orthodontist appointment we have scheduled for Monday. In Norman. It’s an appointment I scheduled back in July and it is nearly impossible to reschedule. I knew we had to keep it. Going to the fair on Monday was not going to work.

The girls were disappointed and, honestly, I was too. Then Craig and I conferred and decided we could use one of my writing payments from September and take the girls today. They were pumped. So was I.

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I mean, it’s not every day you get to marvel at the likes of Deep Fried Macaroni and Cheese, Deep Fried Mashed Potatoes on a Stick, or Chocolate Covered Corndogs. You name it, they had strung it on a stick, dipped it in batter, and fried it golden crisp. I love going to fairs just for the sake of marveling at the lows we are collectively willing to sink to all in the name of fall fun. Yes, I just lumped myself in with the entire fair demographic. We got one of these:

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It’s our annual shared funnel cake. Woe to the funnel cake stand in which their funnel cake maker was not working. We had to leave them and go to another stand. My kids began squabbling about who got to hold the plate and who was picking off more than someone else and I looked them all squarely in the eyes and told them if I heard another word about it I would eat the entire thing all by myself while they watched. The squabbling stopped.

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We were all surprised to see the St. Louis Arch right there at the State Fair Park. Who knew? It appeared a bit smaller than usual, but it was looking pretty good. There were a bunch of little arches nearby too. I’m still really curious to know what that was all about, but we didn’t take the time to try to figure it out while we were there. We had things to do, places to go, grease to consume. We were off.

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This funny little western show was one of our first experiences. It was a nice way to begin our time at the fair, if not altogether silly. But this is the fair. Silliness is a virtue here, right?

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We saw all the arts and crafts exhibitions and I was taken back to my youth when I’d see all the local kids’ 4-H entries and wish with all my heart I could be in 4-H too. I wanted to bake cookies and get a prize for it. I wanted to submit my own sewing projects and get affirmation that comes by way of a shiny blue ribbon. I just KNEW I could do it.

My kids had that same twinge today when they saw all the interesting and unique things that kids their age had turned in. They wondered how they, too, could participate next year. It’s been some 27 years since I first asked that question and I still don’t know the answer to it.

In other news, isn’t that Oklahoma cake awesome? There were several great cakes on display as well as other baked yumminess. And irony walked by in the form of a 15-year-old girl who sneared at the cases of cookies and fudge as she said, “THAT looks unhealthy.” She then took a big slug of her 32oz Big Gulp of red stickiness. Indeed, sullen teen, indeed.

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There is just something about the fair that makes it okay to yearn for the 1960s. Nobody expects the fair to change from year to year. Walking in today, in 2011, was really no different than the 1994 version I last experienced. And I liked it that way. The buildings just make me want to set up a Brady Bunch house in the parking lot and stuff it with canned goods. Maybe I need help.

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This sign? I sigh with content. I just love it. And I don’t really even know much about The Oklahoman other than that I clip coupons from it on Sunday afternoons, but this sign right there makes me want to be a staff writer. Please, Oklahoman, please?

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There was no way I was going to purchase unlimited ride wristbands for the five of us, so I bought enough tickets for all of us to ride one thing. Maddie and Chloe chose the favorite from my own childhood: The Himalaya. I looked at them wistfully as they stepped in line and then I hopped on the Sky Ride with Katie and Millie. I’m not kidding myself. The Himalaya would have made me violently dizzy and possibly incapable of driving home afterwards. The Sky Ride was PERFECT for feeling like you’ve experienced most of the fair even though you really hung out mostly on one side. It was a little disappointing, though, when we were halfway around and they made us get off. Nobody bothered to tell us our tickets were only good for half of the ride. Boo, Sky Ride, boo!

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The set of tickets I had purchased left us with 8 after the five us of made our selections, so I quickly ran and got 4 more, so the three of us could ride the Sky Ride back down to where the other girls were waiting. Did you follow all the numbers there? Never mind. We still enjoyed the ride even if they did rip us off even more than expected.

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Just as the fun threshold was just about to be reached, we walked into one last building. I really wanted to see the piglets that were born this week. We never saw those, but we did happen upon a really awesome hands-on agricultural display and we ended up staying there for about an hour. We saw baby chicks hatching and butterflies emerging from their cocoons.

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We did see these two little guys who had been heartlessly named Bacon and Sausage. Oink, sniff, oink. (Note: We do love both bacon AND sausage around here, but don’t really care to think about what they looked like when they still had legs.) Moving on then.

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This entire section was a highlight of our fair experience for sure.

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In lieu of $8 corndogs for dinner (each, yes, each), I told the girls we’d just go to Chick-Fil-A on our way home. They all agreed that would be a better deal and were happy to wait. While there, the guy taking our order asked us what we liked best about the fair. I said I really liked the kids’ agriculture exhibit the best and laughed when my girls said they all liked the ride they picked the best. I get that. I’m cool with that.

But I have a few more things I really liked too. I’m a sucker for the exhibit buildings. I know it’s like walking past one commercial after another, but I would have kept doing it if they hadn’t been so stinking crowded and my kids weren’t visibly tired. They did not want to see the knives demo or get another sample of sour candy. They wanted out of there. I obliged. But if I could go again all by myself, I’d definitely hang out in the buildings.

I also liked the funnel cake. A lot. And, no, I don’t think I would have REALLY eaten the entire thing by myself had my kids not stopped squabbling. At least I like to think I wouldn’t have. Sheesh.

But I really did like that kids’ agriculture building a lot too.

All in all, it was a super fun day and we were all glad we went. And I’m making a mental note to myself for next year: No orthodontist appointments on kids’ free admission day.