It’s not rigged, you just suck at the ring toss

I had a teacher in high school who, upon being vehemently told “that’s not fair!” in a heated argument between student and educator, would adamantly reply “The fair’s in July!” And just like that, with thoughts happily diverted to how many times you could get your Zipper cage to flip in a row without throwing up and the heaven that IS warm, gooey funnel cake, the debate was lost to another day.

"Uh, should the cage door be haphazardly swinging open like that mid-ride?" "Welcome to the Columbus county fair."

Do you remember how innocently magical the county fair used to be as a kid? When the cicadas began to hum, clothes stuck damply to your skin in the stifling summer humidity and popsicles took the place of breakfast, lunch and dinner? You could sense its arrival, and seemingly overnight, the rides, tents and games rose to the occasion.

Even as a teenager, that week was filled with shy handholding atop the Ferris wheel, secretly stealing sweet sips of peach schnapps from your parents’ liquor cabinet and late nights spent talking with friends in the abandoned parking lot long after hours.

Nowadays, I can’t look at a carnie without idly gambling on the amount of teeth he still has, or loosely speculating if, indeed, he is really a he at all. I watch where I place my steps very carefully (there is no love lost in my heart for sticky soles) and I ALWAYS bring a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. I’m 26 years old. No need to be reckless.

In Columbus, the fair is the biggest ego boost north of the Platte. Those enchanted, nostalgic moments of fast rides, cotton candy and teddy bears have been replaced with beer garden bracelets, drunken karaoke and too many occurrences of skin-tight clothing on the overly obese to count.

Isn’t it great?!

"People of this caliber." - Jeopardy contestant in reply to the question: "What won't you be seeing at Columbus' county fair?"

From where these ruffians slide out of the cracks from in this fair county (heh) is beyond me, but the fact that I can depend on it to happen every second week in July is no small consolation. 

Anyway, it comes to town tomorrow. An escape from the doldrums of that 9-5 job, where picnic table dancing in front of unseen coworkers in a miniskirt three inches too short is highly encouraged, loudly applauded and embarrassingly uploaded to Facebook…ahhhhh NOW.

A place where no pickle is left un-fried.

The county fair. The pinnacle of a small town summer. Nested stealthily between the annual Demo Derby held on the fourth and the horse races closing out July, it appears out of nowhere and dissipates just as rapidly.

I watched the Sandlot a few days ago in honor of the fair’s arrival and the mark they both make on summer. And, of course, to prepare.

“Been plannin it for years!”

Of course, you can’t really prepare for the county fair. It’s all about riding the wave, a wave heavily comprised of Bud Light, two stepping and lazily soaking up the mid-summer moonlight. Beach Boys cover band that forgets the lyrics to Good Vibrations? You had me at “I’m picking up good…uhhh…good…wait, what was that word again, Johnny? How did we get hired? Shit, the mic’s still on…”

Washed up country singer who hasn’t produced music in ten years headlining Saturday night? I’m there! Standing behind a sweaty dude who’s easily 250+ in line for the porta potty? Eh, check ya later.

Since this summer has been the best I’ve had here upon the return to my hometown three years ago, I expect this year’s encounter with the fair to be particularly delicious.

I’ll pick you up a fried Snickers.

11 responses to “It’s not rigged, you just suck at the ring toss

  1. I am oddly obsessed with your headline for this post! I have quoted it to about a dozen friends. Love the post! Sounds similar to a small town Minnesota fair.

    • When I think of the county fair, it’s exactly what comes to mind – never ever being able to snag a bottle with those damn plastic rings! And then resorting to the game where you pick up the colored ducks from the makeshift pond and see if the number you picked matches the number on their backside. Straightforward. No thinking. 😉

  2. It’s terrible to say Cassie but I love those horrible greasy burgers they fry up at fairs!! Enjoy!

    • It’s OK to treat yourself to something deliciously awful for you every once and awhile – I’m waiting for the cake walk to come to town during our church’s annual bazaar! Here’s hoping someone’s grandma made some to-die-for butterscotch bars, complete with powdered sugar on top. Well, hello there, early onset diabetes.

  3. We just went to my hometown fair this weekend. I hadn’t gone in years. The people scare me (since when did thigh tattoos become popular?) and the animals should have started a revolt to break free! My hometown is definitely a little redneck country, and they all go to the fair.

    I cannot stand cotton candy, but we did get a funnel cake. It was interesting, but also sad to see how much less is there these days (bad economy, it has changed a lot), but also how much smaller everything seems! I will not ride rollercoasters and even I started to think I could handle most of the rides (if I wasn’t afraid of them collapsing due to being put up poorly by carnies last minute). I hope you had fun at your fair! 🙂

    • I brought my purse (which just snaps shut) with me into the zipper, which resulted in the loss of all my morning coffee change – quite the Debbie Downer – but we had a fun time! C originally suggested I leave it with the “nice-looking attendent” at the start of the ride, but somehow, just somehow, I didn’t think that would be a wise decision. 😉 Glad you had a fun(ish) time at yours – small towns definitely make you appreciate the little things in life that bring simple joy (FUNNEL CAKE!)!

  4. cookiemonster

    Last day of the fair and 103 degrees. Funnel cake tempting but my WW weekly weigh-in says “better pass” this week. But pickles are zero points!!!!! If you overlook the adjective “fried” .

  5. Oh, the fair…

    Well-written – there can’t be many markers of growing up bigger than the transition from “magical place of fun, excitement and naive flirtation” to “creepy, dangerous, Oh-my-God-people-eat-that?”

    • Thanks much! And agreed. A few examples – Cotton candy as a child: sugary, delicious, melt in your mouth. Cotton candy as an adult: processed insulation. Unmarked van as a kid: mysterious vehicle with lots of room for fun activities. Unmarked van as a grown-up: Certain someone is underneath just waiting to slit an Achilles tendon or two.

      Took a stab at some captions inspired from your blog – hope you don’t mind. Yours are always so laugh-out-loud funny. 🙂

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