Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jon's America VII (The County Ag Fair)

Thanks for your thoughts and love on my last post, dear readers; they're a real comfort. There's been a lot going on for me recently, and Jon offered to write another guest post for the blog so we can finish off the week on a lighter note. With that... take it away, Jon!

A few weeks ago, I was able to tick off another quintessentially American experience off my extensive list of things I need to do in this great land before I can be considered one of you – a county fair (next up, visit Taco Bell). To be fair (hah), county fairs aren’t necessarily as “American” an experience as many of you might think. I grew up in a rural country called Suffolk, and visiting the Suffolk County Fair every year – the “Suffolk Show” - was a staple of my childhood. While my mum forced us to go watch the sheep shearing competition, all I wanted to do there was clamber over the tractors. That’s all I want to do now, really, but I have this wife and this job and this urban thing going on, and I’ve somehow persuaded some people that I’m an adult with a diverse range of interests and talents so I can't.

But I digress. The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair was everything I hoped it would be, even though it’s not one of the most rural fair experiences to be had. Whereas my Suffolk memories involve horses showjumping in a soggy field, this new world has pigs racing for cheese doodles in front of a baying mob! The Nascar-themed pig racing, complete with strong biblical overtones (really), was only bested when the announcer revealed that, for the final race, they’d be racing Vietnamese pot-bellied micropigs! Having super-cute animals race doesn’t diminish the thrill of competition, it only adds a new and adorable element to this already compelling sport.

But what about the food, you ask? What stick-based treats did I manage to ingest? To be honest, that was the only mild disappointment of the day – there was a surprising lack of ingenuity when it came to getting the most outlandish food possible stuck on wood. Across the country, the Idaho fair had recently taken place and I’d been staring wide-eyed at pictures of Hilary Clinton pretending to enjoy pork on a stick. I made up for it with deep fried cheddar cheese balls that arrived still floating in grease. Betsy tried half of one and couldn’t keep it down. I made it through about half the box, more on principle than anything else.

The fairground section was great – along with doing my whole “look, you can see the rust flakes” routine while on the top of the ferris wheel with Betsy, I witnessed my first Drown the Clown attraction. For those of you who’ve yet to experience this, it consists of a guy in makeup sitting above a pool of water, and you have to hit a metal plate with a ball to dunk him in. Your incentive to do so is that he taunts you, and this one guy in particular was brutal. Nasty, barbed comments flew from him aimed the participants’ worst insecurities – weight, age, appearance… every “ism” that would collectively enrage Jezebel was screamed at anyone stepping up to play. Things got pretty dicey with a stocky bald guy, and I think the collective cheer that went but when he finally dunked the clown was tinged with relief that he wouldn’t then to go round the back and administer his own style of “payback” on the antagonizer.

Betsy at this point would want to me to be fair (again, hah), so I shall also say that much of the experience was charming as well as entertaining. The old boys who maintain and proudly demonstrate the vintage farming machinery they had there were great, especially the elderly gentleman who printed us a free postcard on the old school printing press he had up and running! The areas selling livestock, often overlooked by the crowds, were fascinating to witness, and it’s comforting to know that there’s still a small-scale farming industry in this part of the states. Also, funnel cakes are delicious, and mostly make up for the deep-fried cheddar balls – the powdered sugar grease cancels out the savory cheesy grease very nicely. All in all, a great day out!

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