Over the years I’ve written this column my wife has tried numerous times to get me to fan-out into genres other than the outdoors, but I’ve pretty much a stickler for staying with what I know and do best. However, I love to write about my observations at the state fair, although it has, well, uh, absolutely nothing to do with the outdoors other than much of it sits outside.
I ‘m the oldest of five kids and we were all in 4H until they kicked us out. We had a flock of registered sheep, and for numerous years I showed those sheep at several county fairs and at the Ohio State Fair. At the State Fair I stayed in a room above the sheep barn which was close enough to the midway that there was absolutely no sleeping until midnight when the midway rides shut down and the crowds went home. A popular draw was the dunk tank featuring Bobo the Clown. Now Bobo had a way of taunting kids without being belligerent or racist that would cause a kid to stand there and pitch softballs at a pie-sized target on that dunk tank until they had spent their life savings, their college fund plus their parents 401 K. I will take to my grave the haunting sound of Bobo’s voice as it echoed through the dark, humid nights proclaiming “Bobo, high and dry!”
Jeff Foxworthy has said that if you want to see a family more dysfunctional than your own, go to a state fair. State fairs have taught me many important truths to guide me through life, such as, knee socks of any description on a man look horrendous with shorts, wearing both suspenders and a belt (especially with shorts) looks even dorkier than wearing both with jeans, purple spiked hair is not really that cool on a fat fifty-something man. And speaking of colored hair, I saw hair in every color of the rainbow, as if a giant blimp full of Skittles had exploded somewhere over Kansas.
And why is “the midway” called “the midway?” Is it because it’s “midway” between you and your wallet? Or could it possibly be midway between you and insanity? Anyway, it’s on the midway of the Kansas State Fair that I learned another of life’s great truths; that in this day and age there is no food group immune from being deep fried and/or put on a stick. I found deep fried PB&J, (haven’t a clue how that works,) deep fried Twinkies (sounds to me like a waste of a perfectly good Twinkie,) deep fried peaches (those almost sound good,) and new this year, deep fried deviled eggs. As scrumptious as those all sound, my favorite has to be Moink Balls on a stick, which I finally tried for the first time this year, comprised of beef meatballs (the “mo”) wrapped in a slice of bacon (the “oink”) and not one but five served on a stick; now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Another piece of advice from Jeff Foxworthy is “If you’re going somewhere alone, don’t wear a T shirt that says “I’m Here with Stupid.” I love reading T shirts people are wearing and boy-howdy, there’s no better place to do that than at a state fair. Here, in no particular order are my favorite T shirt captions seen at the Kansas State Fair:
• My IQ Test Came Back Negative
• The Only Thing that Should Come Between a Hunter and His Meat is Bread
• 9 out of 10 Bears Surveyed Prefer Campers over S’mores
• I’m Not a Complete Idiot; Some Parts are Missing
• I Believe Every Form of Wildlife has its Place; Right next to the Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
• You’ve Read My T Shirt, that’s Enough Social Interaction for Today
• I Love My Country, it’s My Government that Scares Me
• I Have Multiple Personalities and None of Them Like You
• (This appeared with a picture of a Harley Chopper motorcycle ridden by a skeleton and is possibly my favorite.) Sons of Arthritis, Ibuprofen Chapter
Even though COVID left its mark on this year’s state fair, causing some empty spots in buildings and some regulars like KS Dept of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism guys and gals to remain absent, there’s still no better entertainment for this country boy than the state fair; fond memories, life lessons learned, fine dining and new fashion statements. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]