Life isn’t (the county) fair

Tonight, our little family — although no group can accurately be described as “little” if I’m in it — made our annual pilgrimage to the Sonoma County Fair.

The event musters less cachet every year. Our daughter is long since old enough to go to the fair on her own, with her friends, and generally doesn’t need the ‘rents tagging along. My wife now needs a wheelchair to cover the expansive fairground distances, and thus doesn’t get to see everything as closely or conveniently as she once did. And every year, the selection of vendors grows more sparse and the exhibits less compelling.

But still, it’s our tradition. So we go. And we always have a nice time.

I mostly go to the fair to watch people, and to eat. The latter grows increasingly challenging. Many of the vendors whose offerings I once enjoyed no longer appear — where have you gone, Richardson’s Ribs? — and those who do seldom rise to the level of true county fair greatness. This year, KJ’s favorite Mexican cuisine stand — the home of the legendary soft tacos that she waited all summer to nosh —  was a no-show. She contented herself with a child’s plate of spaghetti from the Pasta King instead. I settled for a platter of fried seafood, which was decent enough, but nothing like the calamari that another vendor used to serve. That purveyor, too, is gone.

Even the venerable cinnamon roll concession, for decades a staple of the main pavilion, got shunted outside to an unfamiliar location this year. I tell you, there’s just no respect for history any more.

I did savor a pleasant enough quaff of draft cream soda from a vendor I’d not seen at previous fairs. The cowboy-costumed barkeep drew my drink in a colorful keepsake tin cup, which may come in handy someday if I fill it with pencils and stand on a busy street corner.

We trekked what seemed like a half-marathon out to the fairgrounds’ back forty to check out the Budweiser Clydesdales. Why bother to bring in such a crowd-pleasing attraction if you’re going to hide it in an obscure cranny where the crowds may never find it? Even a fair employee whom we stopped for directions was momentarily stumped by the question of where the Clydesdales were. (I’m not entirely certain she even knew what a Clydesdale was.)

The Hall of Flowers held its own. The theme this year was “The Land Before Time,” which mostly involved every floral designer sticking an incongruous plastic dinosaur or two into his or her display. The overall decoration looked good, though, and a few of the designers added exotic touches like colored waterfalls or volcanoes in an effort to make the scene vaguely Cretaceous.

I saw no one hawking anything in the main pavilion that I couldn’t live without. I managed to resist the siren call of kitchen gadgets, gaudy neckties, hot tubs (why do they always sell hot tubs? who goes to the fair looking to score a four-seat Jacuzzi for the back patio?) and the ubiquitous Sham-Wow. I almost succumbed to a sudden jones for cleaning products, but just couldn’t pull the trigger.

My daughter KM paused to let me take her photo with the lifesize cutout of President Obama at the Democratic Party booth. We noted that, as custom dictated, the Dems and the Repubs again occupied spaces on opposite sides of the hall. (Some things never change.) It might actually spark the proceedings a trifle if the organizers stationed the two parties in adjacent stalls. Perhaps mayhem would ensue.

Given the current state of our county fair, a little mayhem might be just what it needs.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, Food Glorious Food, My Home Town, SwanStuff

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