Friday, September 11, 2015

Random Rant: Our New Tradition Will Be Skipping The Fairs

For the first time in years, we didn't attend any of the local fairs. As fair season neared, we had very little interest. Our lack of enthusiasm stemmed from a slew of reasons. Nothing major. We just weren't feeling it. On occasion, the topic surfaced during a conversation. Are you sure you don't want to go? Yep. You? Yep. Absolutely certain. When Bob and Char asked us if we wanted to accompany them to the fair one late afternoon, we declined. It was spa day for the kids.

True story.

As a child, my parents took my brother and I to the county fairs. We looked forward to going. As fair season neared, we were bursting at the seams with excitement. Cotton candy. Fried dough. Rides. Games. Petting the farm animals. Local vendors. Magic shows. The heart and soul and rich history behind the fairs took center stage back then. I have a deep respect for that. I always will.

In the here and now, fairs aren't what they used to be. The last few we did attend, it was almost a relief when it was time to head home. For a while I thought it was an age thing. Maybe we grew out of going to the fairs. We're both in our 40's. Could it be that diving into a bag of cotton candy at the age of 41 didn't have the same appeal as it did when I was 10? I thought long and hard. Nope. That's not it. I still get excited over a big fluffy wad of cotton candy.

I thought back to last year. County fair. We had about $100 in cash on us after we paid the $24 to get into the fair and $5 to park. It was hot. Thirst came quick. While I love nothing more than fresh squeezed lemonade to quench my thirst, I wasn't paying $8 for a large cup of watered down lemonade. They don't make it like they used to. The ratio of lemon, water and sugar is way off. Now, it tastes like sugary, lemon flavored water.

We opted to purchase a metal mug with unlimited refills for $20. Soda. 

We walked around. Games, rides and food vendors consumed most of the area. The usual barnyard animals were on display for people to see.

The operative word is "see." You're not allowed to touch them now and the petting areas are a thing of the past. Liability. People are too sue happy. And, who wants to dole out a few hundred dollars for hand sanitizer and paper towels for the public because people are terrified of germs. 

We noticed a lot of the vendors offering handmade goods and unique treasures weren't there as they had been in the past. I was disappointed. It had become tradition to buy a folk art metal lizard to add to our collection. The smaller vendors had been replaced by larger ones. Novelty shit. Hot tubs. Insulated windows. Landscaping business. It was the live version of commercial after commercial after commercial.

I hate commercials.

After a couple of hours, our tummies began to rumble. It was time to fill up with some fair food. Like with any fair, county or state, a handful of the food vendors have been there for years. Decades. They're an icon. People associate the fairs with these vendors. Their food is out of this world delicious. Year after year after year. Hands down, you've got to eat there.

Then, there are the other food vendors. Some new. Some have been around for a few years. They tend to be inconsistent. Outrageous prices. Poor quality ingredients. The portions are a joke. I don't mind paying $10 for a heaping bowl of homemade, authentic beer battered onion rings when you can find a reputable vendor that makes them. What I do mind is paying the same price for a dozen or so pre-battered onion rings fresh out of the...freezer.

And $6 for 3 deep fried Oreo Cookies drizzled with Great Value chocolate flavored syrup? What's up with that shit?

Between the food and drink and lack of vendors who had pinged our interest in the years prior, we became irritated. I lost count how many people crashed into us because they weren't paying attention. Their eyes were fixated on their phones. Everyone is looking down at their tech devices. Crash.

You're at the fair. Put the phones away. Please.

When all was said and done, we walked through the Exit gate with our metal cup and a $12 bag of maple kettle corn.

Maple? There was no hint of maple flavor. 

That evening, I couldn't help but think, "We just blew $130. On what?" Neither one of us had much to say. There were no brag-worthy highlights to speak of. We scraped the bottom of the barrel when it came time for our bedtime thoughts.

"I had a nice time at the fair." 

"Me too."

"The weather was nice."

"Yes it was."

I wanted to kick myself in the ass. My brain wouldn't stop spinning. Calculating. For $130, we could have purchased 12 jars of Skippy Peanut Butter, 10 bags of flour, 5 tins of baking powder, bags and labels. We could have used the $130 to buy Revolution for all of our kids that would take us through a few months when our current stash runs out. Or, we could have put half in savings and used the rest for 6 jars of peanut butter, 5 bags of flour and 3 tins of baking powder.

This is when I realized our age had nothing to do with it. Over the years, life has changed. Our family has gotten bigger. We have 3 kids. Our focus during the past 5 years has shifted drastically. We're not even on the same path.

There's also Bodacious Biscuit Love. We're still running out of pocket. We probably always will be. 

My brain didn't process $130 back then like it does now. Five years ago, it wouldn't have weighed heavy. Fried butter? Sure. Chocolate covered bacon? Let's give it a whirl. Now, it weighs heavy. I can't rationalize spending that amount of money on an activity that barely held our interest and served food I can easily make here at home for a fraction of the cost.

Hand cut potatoes in the shape of french fries. Cook in hot oil. Sprinkle with salt. It's not rocket science. 

I know some will call me a prude. Cheap. Quite possibly a fun-sucker. That's okay. At the end of the day, I'm quite content being at home. With our kids. Sharing homemade french fries. With $130 still in our pockets.

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