Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fair Fourth

Another July 4th bites the dust. My two sons and I were trying to avoid the usual crush of crowds in NY, and decided to view the Independence day fireworks from another vantage point: the New Jersey State Fair.

Do you remember the State Fairs of your youth? I do. Stinky affairs. My family would go to the south each summer during vacation to visit relatives and inevitably visit the farm animals, lame rides, overly expensive carnival games and freak shows. My family never had much money, so my main experience was simply passing by stalls, looking at prize winning pigs, blue ribbon roosters and the like, and yes, experiencing that darn smell. The thing I remember the most were the tiny cots in between the animal stalls where the farmers and their families slept. If you got to the fair early enough, as you checked out the animals, you'd still see little Jimmy snoring next to his families' prize cow. I always assumed that the reason for this was that they simply couldn't afford accommodations once they came to the fair to show off of their livestock, but it didn't seem sad to me. It seemed touching.

The New Jersey Fair seemed different; all I saw were cheap rides. But the kids and the Leopard had great fun despite the cheesy surroundings.

One attraction was for .50 you could view the world's smallest horse. It was on a platform surrounded by bales of hay. I paid my money and walked up the stairs to a pit, and down there was a small pony. It was indeed disconcertingly small but not shockingly so, which is what the exaggerated posters surrounding the display suggested. It was standing, staring blankly into space, while spectators dropped loose straws of hay on his head.

As I was leaving the exhibit, I was asked what I thought of what I saw and all I could say was "Kinda sad". We all grasped hands and continued to stroll, checking out the crowds, the lights, the sights and the sounds. Sure enough, here was another display, "World's Largest Horse". I found myself digging immediately into my pocket for loose change.

That's what fairs are about.

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