Too Long at The Fair The County Fair? On a Saturday? During a heat wave in August? I weigh the pros and cons.

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney

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Too Long at The Fair The County Fair? On a Saturday? During a heat wave in August? I weigh the pros and cons.
The cons are obvious; crowded, problematic parking, sticky surfaces, long lines, smell of farm animals, overpriced concessions, getting lost, spilled beer, crying children, scary carnies, plugged-up pottys, blaring sun, possibility of clowns, roving gangs of teenagers, pickpockets, rigged games of chance, Americans, fake watches, someone throwing up over near a hay bale, a very large sheep eating and peeing at the same time, loud rap music, goat testicles, and the undeniable, stunning beauty of young giggling girls shining right through, in spite of scandalous tube tops and too much make-up, reminding me I am no longer of their ilk. The pros? I love carnivals! The Fair is in Ventura, perhaps the most temperate of its locations, shuttle service, senior discount, the wholesome smell of farm animals, hot-dogs-on-a-stick, chance of winning a large stuffed banana, ridiculous handcrafted displays, blue ribbons, Mommy Pig and piglets, the lights of the Midway just as it’s getting dark, a carousel, deep-fried Oreos, hay bales, kids trying over and over again to climb to the top of the rope ladder, sound of a calliope somewhere, glow-in-the-dark souvenirs, street corn, and the promise, however distant, of the end of the long, lingering summer and a coming of Autumn. The pros win. Perhaps tipping my decision was the chance to attend the iconic Americana spectacle with Cindy, my best friend since the fourth grade. Over, lo these many years, we’ve shared numerous fairs, carnivals, jails, birthdays, boyfriends, and even a maze from which I am still grateful to this day of having escaped. Especially memorable were the carnivals at Notre Dame High School down the street from our parent’s houses in Sherman Oaks. It was always in early October, just around my birthday, and even though it was the Valley, that magical Autumnal glow was in the air as we walked excitedly by golden leaves illuminated by porch lights which came on earlier and earlier as the days grew shorter. We’d planned our outfits weeks ahead, tight fitting corduroy hip huggers, poor boy, turtleneck tops, and some kind of go-go or squaw boots. The excitement of those times was thrilling, being thirteen with friends at a local carnival, passing cute boys under colored lights, while overhead screams come in waves from people on the rides, the sugary flavor of candy cotton in our mouths and sticking to our Cover Girl lipstick appropriately called Spun Sugar. The song, “Orange Skies,” by the band, Love, captured, perfectly that evening magic, with a gentle music-box mix of lullaby and psychedelic jazz. Written by Bryan MacLean, ‘Orange skies, carnivals and cotton candy and you, and I love you girl, you know I do. Nightingale, prettier than anything in this world, and I love you girl, you know I do. You make me happy, laughing, glad and full of glee, and you don’t have to try girl, For you it comes so naturally, right here in my arms. I know I wax nostalgic, looking back through the rose-colored glasses of youth, but Arthur Lee and Love, remain ever deserving of praise. Perhaps in a past life I worked some side show, charming snakes, and selling snake oil, (nice tie-in), telling fortunes, or breathing fire. Somehow sawdust must have seeped into my soul for I am attracted to all things festive be it pumpkin patch, circus, fair, or carnival. I love candy apples, colored lights, burnished moons low on the horizon, and even those strange, satanic eyes of goats. So, in this impossible year of 2023 I’m off to the Fair with high hopes, but on this mortal coil there are always, alas, pros and cons. To begin with, the shuttle we attempt to locate is elusive. It takes several tries to find the right departure site as signage is nonexistent. Upon arriving at the Fair, we are herded like cattle into those zig-zagging metal barricades that go back and forth seemingly forever. By the time we finally get to the gate I am dizzy and feel as if I’ve covered a mile. Fortunately, as soon as we enter the grounds, there is the Hot-Dog-On-A-Stick stand and Cindy’s gentleman friend, droll Billy, and I make a beeline to that mecca. He pays the outrageous $16. and we wolf down the mana, mine slathered in mustard. Sated, we move through the grounds. The sights are many and varied, a kaleidoscope of Fair. In our company is Cindy’s dear daughter, Amber, who is my own Goddaughter and her handsome firefighter boyfriend. It’s sort of hard to stay together. At the Old MacDonald Farm Animal Exhibit, I’m drawn to a fine little donkey over whom I am besotted, (what else is new?). When I finally look up, everyone’s gone. I’m lost at the Fair. It’s kind of a freeing feeling, by myself, admiring prize bunnies, laughing along with an amazed little boy when a goat pees. A lot! For a moment I miss the Beleaguered Husband who was unable to attend but I am buoyed knowing our son Riley and his charming lady, Karen, who live in Ventura are coming to meet us. The sun is getting hot. I can’t find where they sell the beer. Of course, Cindy finds me, she always does. We wander into the air-conditioned Gemstone Exhibition, which also contains individual private collections of odd things. Old cut glass pieces, My Little Pony, Happy Face, The Many Faces of Buddha, or Hot Wheels. I’m temped to enter next year with A Variety of Cocktail Glasses. We move to the Fair entrance just as I see my son and Karen arrive. I am thrilled! We move to the midway, play games, win prizes, eat popcorn and finally go on a ride! No longer can I do the roller coaster stuff but I’m excited to brave the Tilt-A-Whirl. Cindy and I ride together like old times but now we see the passing, laughing faces of our grown children, spinning all around in front of us. And we all scream! Together, young and old in America, and that was enough. One little girl was crying as her mother led her away as the sun set. “I don’t want to leave the Fair! I don’t want to go home!” the child cried. Too long at the Fair, I thought.
Kathie Gibboney

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