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Monday, August 16, 2010

A Day at the Fair -- the report!

So, the other day we enacted one of our favorite annual rituals: a day at the Erie County Fair.

We've been going to the Fair ever since 2001 or 2002, the first year we actually lived in the Buffalo area. It's always been one of our favorite things about living in this area. Our county is populous enough to have a big fair, but it's also got enough farmland to have a fair that's got a really nicely agricultural feel to it. We love most things about the fair: walking the Midway, seeing the farm animals, noting the expressions of boredom on the faces of the farmers who have little to do but sit with their animals all day for two weeks, wandering through the various Crafts buildings, sending The Daughter on rides, engaging in lots of Crass Commercialism, and of course, eating a ton of food that really isn't all that healthy at all. A good day at the Erie County Fair is among the best days one can have, in my opinion. I just wish that the fair was a little bit later each year so it would be a bit cooler. The fair is almost made for overalls -- and yet it's always too hot for overalls when I'm there! Bummer.

We always like to get to the fair early on, before 11:00, when the admission prices are half-off. County fairs are amazing bargains, really, and if you can cut that in half, it's even more of a bargain. Our first order of business is to walk across the fair to where our favorite corndog stand is located; by tradition, corndogs are always the first thing we eat at the fair.

This year, though, our favorite corndog stand wasn't where it's been for the last few years! It seems that they did some offseason renovating and stuff at that end of the Fair, where the animals and the rides for smaller kids are located, so our favorite corndog stand was moved somewhere else. I didn't see where until later...but luckily, there was still a different corndog place not that far from where our favorite used to be, so that's where we went. Unfortunately, the corndogs at the new places are smaller than the ones we're used to, but they were still tasty.

Erie County Fair: The Corndog Girls

After this, it was off to see animals. We always wander quickly through the pig and cow exhibition buildings, because...well, there's just so much staring at pork or beef (or milk) one can stand. Of greater interest to us each year, though, is the building that hosts ducks, swans, chickens, and The Wife's beloved rabbits.

Erie County Fair: Baby bunnies!

The Wife raised rabbits in her youth, so she always has a good time checking those out. We also check out the goats and sheep, which I never find all that interesting (but The Wife and The Daughter do). Somehow we missed llamas this year. No idea where they were. I love llamas. Llamas rule!

Shortly after seeing the animals (and a new show this year featuring Sea Lions), it was the first of many snack times. One snack we always get at the fair is a bag of freshly made kettle corn. A big bag.

A big bag.

Erie County Fair: Popcorn!

No, we don't eat the whole thing. Not even close! We still have about half the bag left, and that's after The Wife and I had some more last night when she got home from work. (Kettle corn stays tasty for a surprisingly long time.)

Essential every year is the Crafts building, which is always chock full of wonderful items. This is where people who grow orchids and African violets and ivy topiaries display their creations, as well as lots of floral arrangements and gladiolas. There are displays of sewing, knitting, and crocheting; there are paintings and quilting and photography. We always linger in this building for quite a while (and not just because it's air conditioned!).

One favorite thing of mine in this building, which I only really noticed last year, are the dioramas and the place settings, which are always organized around specific themes. This year, one of the themes was Star Wars! This was terrific. I loved these:

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings I

The big flower is, I suppose, meant to suggest the planet from Revenge of the Sith with the enormous flowers that obscure our view of the clone troopers' murder of that female Jedi. Cool!

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings II

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings III

Next up were the place settings, which were themed "Lunch with Luke". I loved this one:

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings IV

Black and white for the Good and Dark Sides of the Force, obviously -- and the napkin is folded in the shape of a Star Destroyer! That's awesome.

Here's another that I liked:

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings V

One of the critical notes on the little card there reads, "Mug is slightly oversized". This struck me as silly, since the stoneware is obviously a set. What was the artist supposed to do? Shrink the mug?

Then there were the table displays which were themed to different movies. This one, I think, really got the idea of American Graffiti:

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings VIII

When I saw this one, however, I laughed out loud:

Erie County Fair: Dioramas and Place Settings VII

If the movie being themed were, say, Julie and Julia, I could see what's being done here. But the actual movie being themed here was The French Connection. I can only assume the author didn't see the movie, or even look up what it was about?

Another favorite place of ours (which we actually missed last year) is the Woodcarving building. There is some stunning work being done out there. I was amazed at some of it, like this:

Erie County Fair: Wood carvings II

And this:

Erie County Fair: Wood carvings V

Later on, while we waited for the daily parade, we decided to have The Daughter take our picture. This, proved a bit problematic, though, as The Daughter tends to not say anything to indicate when she's about to snap the photo, so we end up with results like this:

Erie County Fair: Couple photo, take 1

Erie County Fair: Couple photo, take 2

But we got the kinks ironed out:

Erie County Fair: OK, this one's fine

Then the parade started, with the mounted cops, the marching band, Shriners in little cars:

Erie County Fair: Shriner hot rod

And horse-drawn wagons such as this calliope organ:

Erie County Fair: Calliope wagon

After the parade, it was time to check out the horse barns (which are on the side of the fairgrounds completely opposite the rest of the farm animals):

Erie County Fair: Horses

By this time, night was setting, so after a dinner of Chiavetta's barbecue chicken (and a couple of hours after a snack of pizza for the kid and a pulled pork sandwich for The Wife and I), it was time for rides on the Midway:

Erie County Fair: Bumper cars

"Rides", for us, translates to watching The Daughter do the bumper cars ten times. That is no exaggeration: she did those things ten times. Kids do the bumper cars and then, when the ride ends, get out and sprint for the entrance to go on again. Wow.

The one ride we all do as a family is riding the Giant Wheel, which I love but which I suspect The Wife and Daughter don't love quite as much as I do. I just think the Midway is beautiful from above:

Erie County Fair: Midway at Night I

Erie County Fair: Midway at Night II

And, toward the end of the night, one final culinary indulgence: the amazing wonder that is a giant plate of Ribbon Fries!

Erie County Fair: Ribbon fries!

So...what else? Well, there's the Antique Mall, where we always spend a bit of time looking at old stuff. This is actually a small satellite location of a much larger antiques store that is located just a mile from Casa Jaquandor. I bought The Wife a pair of earrings there this time (pearls, to match the pearl necklace I bought her last Christmas). There were the other buildings full of Wares Being Hawked, although I did notice that the selling this time was more geared toward demonstration-type sales than actual booths selling stuff. We missed out on some vendors we've enjoyed in years past, only to find them missing this time. We also omitted our customary trip through the Native American "village" (a section of the park devoted to Native American art and culture). Not sure why we skipped this, other than that we just decided to do other stuff and never found time to make it back there.

I'm sure I'm forgetting about some stuff, but I think that sums up the day we had at the Erie County Fair pretty well. I'm sad that it's over for another year...but hey, next up is the Ithaca Apple Festival in October! Huzzah!

(See my Flickr photostream for more photos that I didn't use in this post.)

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