In A Fair State of Mind

7 Oct

Last week, I was officially baptized Texan.

It didn’t occur at church.  Or work.  Or while traversing Downtown Dallas.

Instead, it happened the instant I entered the star-studded gates of Fair Park.

As soon as I walked in, something changed within in.  And I doubt it was solely an individual encounter.

Everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and social status falls prey to the sights, sounds and smells of the fair.  It’s impossible not to.

Children, of course, feel the effects first, as evidenced by the train-full of little people screaming “FAIR, FAIR, FAIR.”

As I rolled my eyes, I couldn’t help but smile.  Though the kids are the first to voice it, we all feel that sense of anticipation and eagerness over the annual arrival.

It has been six years since I last attended.  And I desperately yearned for two things: a corn dog and funnel cake.  Fried foods are the centerpoint of the fair.  Sure, one may be normally into baked goods.  Or into watching your weight, your calorie intake.  Heck, our whole world is shying away from fried goods.

But once that inexplicable scent of grease and fried dough invades your nostrils, there’s no denying it.

All rationale and logic is abandoned at the gate.

With a corn dog in hand, I wander over to the Midway.  Here the Merry-go-rounds’ lullaby is as sweet and seductive as a Siren’s.  Kids swamp this area, riding rickety rides, the same exact ones that I once rode.  Now, they seem tiny and ancient.

On the other side, obnoxious game hosts compete with one another to win a glance from the crowd.  Who’s idea was it to allow them mikes?  The tactics works though.  The booth with the most animated host is full of people thrusting tickets away in pursuit of a prize.  And not just any prize.  The largest stuffed dogs, bears, monkeys, you name it, you’ve ever seen.

You wonder how much money gamers toss to earn one of those.  Versus the actual cost.  But everyone’s in fair mode, in la-la-land.  And in this world, parading about the park with a gigantic stuffed animal as your badge of honor is worth whatever it takes.  The glances, stares, mouths hanging agape and pointing fingers of little ones make it worthwhile.

Who cares that once the day is over, fitting that  over-sized bear into the car or worse, toting that thing on the train will be a nightmare.  Or that as soon as the bear makes it to his new home, he will begin collecting dust.  La-La-La.  Fair Land.

In Texas, big is the name of the game.

The icon of the fair is Big Tex, a 52-feet tall and 6,000 pound cowboy decked out in the rugged Dickies shirt, jeans, buckle, boots and a Stetson hat.  People pose before him and his mile-wide smile.

Does anyone else notice how creepy Big Tex’s face is?  Of course, in person, you’ll never know.  But from this angle friendly Big Tex reminds me a lot of this guy.

Moving on.  . .

After a couple hours of walking, eating and sight-seeing, my mom and I are beat.  We mosey on over towards the exit, passing thousands of ogling new arrivals.  They are readily identified by the huge smiles pasted across their faces and the streams of tickets flowing from their pockets.

The rest of us are just as easy to identify.  Crumb-encrusted mouths, empty pockets, and dragging steps are our hallmarks.  Trudging back to the train, I feel like Cinderella must have felt at midnight.  When the magic evaporates and all that remains are the sublime memories of the day.  Before I nod off to sleep in my window seat, I take one last look at the star-studded gates and Big Tex looming in the distance . . .and smile.

Until next time. . .

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