Thursday, September 04, 2008

veritable smorgasbord

Hold onto your hat, because I'm about to reveal something astonishing. But, in true april-fashion, I'll give the whole languid segue first, the meandering backstory that has you tapping your foot and hoping I hurry up and get to the point already. In this case, it's that I have a nasty habit of comparing everything in terms of Oregon and Arizona. I don't mean to stack such different places against each other in some neverending, unfair battle, but being that I've lived, in my current adult family life set-up, in only those two distinct places, it's hard not to be always making notes, keeping score. But since we only lasted in Arizona for just shy of three years and hightailed it back to the beaver state at first chance (arguably a tad bit too hasty, perhaps), it's easy to guess which state is winning. I love Oregon best and did a shoddy job of hiding my favor while we were in Phoenix, at the expense, I fear, of being something of an Oregon-snob. I didn't mean to curtail every conversation with a haughty, "well, in Oregon. . . " but, it might have gone a little something like that.

So, within that context, you might be surprised to know that I have found something that is unequivocally, without contest, better in Arizona.

The State Fair.

Maybe you're not the fair going type and you don't so much care for any of them. But I'm fond of any place I can wallow around in the sort of base people watching I love best, with canned goods and handicrafts and baby goats, to boot. I love the idea behind the fair, bringing out your best to show off at summer's end. I try not to notice all the airbrushed t-shirts and deep fried on a stick monstrosities, but those have a special place as some kind of modern/retro sociological evidence, too, I suppose.

We went to the Oregon Fair this past Sunday. It showered off an on and we sure did get wet. And despite soggy hair and having to hide the camera away from rain drops (and missing out on the best pics), we had a fine time. Great, even. It was great and enjoyable and all of that. BUT! I couldn't help wishing I was in Arizona. Well, not exactly, since the state fair there doesn't happen until the first week of October (when it's less likely to hit a solid 110 by late afternoon).

The difference between the two events is exactly the reverse of what you'd expect, or at least, the opposite of what fits tidily into my general sweeping judgments these two places I've called Home.

There are more vendors, more stuff for sale, more Super Amazing! products, hands down, at the Oregon fair and remarkably fewer handmade items and canned foods and acrylic yarn afghans on display here. There seems to be, in Oregon, a stronger representation from 4-H groups and not a lot of offerings from independent children. This was disappointing. It was thrilling two years ago to be wandering up and down through the children's art exhibits and see other students from my girl's same art teacher. (as a really random aside: we miss her art classes almost more than we miss anything else. If Larry every stumbles on this humble blog here, I implore him to move within a doable drive of my little house. ha!). Of course, we weren't expecting to find any familiar names among the photographs and textiles, but we also weren't expecting to see such a puny offerering. Like, no collections! In Arizona, there's a whole building dedicated to showing off of individuals' collections: stamps and kewpie dolls and whatever else you think someone might collect and want to show off, in glass display cases, in a dusty fairground building. I totally eat that stuff up.

And there's stuff for sale in Arizona, don't get me wrong, and sleepy toothless carnies heckling to win one for the kiddies, but that ilk pales in contrast to the cake decorating demonstrations and mineral exhibits and hands-on activities for children. It's not even that I'm opposed to a hefty dose of Fair Only! For Sale specials, super absorbent shammy cloths and quick and brite cleaner and, may my Grandmother rest in peace, the Vita Mix mixer. Seriously, about the Vita-Mix: I have in my possession, but not in current use, a stainless steel vintage seventies jobbie that mimics, precisely, the same lovely unit that my father uses every day and which he purchased at the State Fair of New Mexico before I was even born. Since you don't know my dad at all, you'll have to trust me when I tell you that any appliance that withstands his use on a daily basis for three decades is worth whatever exorbitant price it might have cost at the time. Now, my old vita-mix is not functional, it's been a couple years since I used it regularly (the Oster blender from Target I picked up is a sad, sad replacement) and I miss it. So it was with great interest and true enthusiasm that I stood in the crowd and watched the VitaMix guy whiz up cabbage and fruit and ice and whatever else into something "like sorbet" and then wait, impatiently, for my own tiny paper cup sample.

I love the Fair!

But for all my excitement, there was something lacking the other day. The carnival rides were embarrassing. I mean, let me state right now that if I were the CEO of Funtastic Rides in Portland, I'd be embarrassed. The Ferris Wheel, so small! A State Fair begs for one of those Giant Wheels, the ones that goggle eyes and make children second guess their own bravery in line. But the wheel at the Oregon Fair was the same wheel you might see at any neighborhood carnival and was, I am almost certain, the exact wheel that stood over the carnival of my little town's summer festival. Little town carnivals and State Fair carnivals should not be the same and while I know any midway is nothing but many variations on the same spinning theme, a good midway will at least entice a nine year old and I can tell you right now that my nine year old was not enticed at all, but rode along on the roundy roundy dumptruck ride and the upsie downsie firetruck ride on account of pleasing her little brother.

The corn we bought was boiled, not roasted. The nerve! We pack our own snacks, generally, but might be tempted into one or two little things that don't entirely upset our gastronomical sensibilities. We shared a piece of pie but even the kettle corn seemed inferior (we walked by).

Man, who even thinks about one state's fair versus another? And then writes about it? You'd think it was somebody who didn't have anything else to do, and not some person trying to play big money, big money (or at least, higher number, higher number!) with the pedometer and who just printed out a recipe for pita bread and is going to try to make some now, on account of having all that hummus whizzed up in the fridge and nothing to eat it with.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the Oregon State Fair lacking. I've never been to the Arizona one, but the New Mexico one is better too. The other thing that still throws me off is the length. The NM State Fair is as least three weeks long and the OR one is, what, 1 1/2 weeks? Barely enough time to warrant setting everything up!