Ninth Week: Go to the North Carolina State Fair

People are often shocked by the things I haven’t tried. This one actually resulted in my boss giving me homework.

When I said I had never been to the State Fair, my boss Megan gasped and demanded that I buy and eat an ear of corn. She also said I wasn’t allowed to come back unless I watched the pig races, where they make the pigs race for a Cheez Doodle. I promised I would make sure to visit both while I was there. I asked another coworker if she needed anything from the Fair, to which she replied, “The only thing I need is for you to promise me you’ll stay away from the fried foods.” I laughed at her**.

As I walked out the door, Megan called after me: “Ear of corn! Cheez Doodle!”*** and I was off on my grand adventure.

After a mere 35-minute drive (I went in the middle of a weekday, so traffic was not a problem), I arrived in Raleigh and took advantage of the Free Fair Parking waaaay down the highway from the fairgrounds. I probably could have parked for free closer (because, again, it was a weekday), but I was in a hurry to begin my epic voyage, and I didn’t want to waste time looking for a space.****

A father who parked beside me asked the attendant, “My son has to pee. Can he…?”

The attendant, without hesitation, replied, “Oh sure. He can go right in front of the car.”

So…so yeah. Use your best judgment on where you’d prefer to park.

A few minutes later, I was disembarking the shuttle and paying my $8 entry. Although I did not partake of them, there were kiddie-cars available for rent, thanks to Steve Troxler*****.

Also wheelchairs, which were mildly confusing, since I would assume anyone who would want one would just bring their own…but then again, I’ve rented umbrellas before, so what do I know?

The first swag of the day came from entering a Geico contest just inside the entry corridor. You could get stickers, cups, those drawstring gym bags that scream “Our swim team had budget left over!” …and awesome gecko caps.

I. Love. Baseball caps. But I look terrible in them. In fact, I look terrible in most hats. I continue to amass them though for the exact same reason I buy interesting novels: they look cool sitting on a shelf, I like being able to say I own them, and I can still convince myself that someday, SOMEDAY, I’ll actually get around to using them how they’re meant to be used******.

Swag in hand*******, I headed into the main fairgrounds. Once inside, I heard Obi Wan’s voice echoing, “Ear of Corn, Luke, Ear of Corn!”, and I wound up with a sippy cup of lemonade and this:

It’s an ear of corn.

An ear of corn roasted and then dunked in butter. The desert landscape below is the salt and pepper table, where you can put as much seasoning on your corn as you want, and then leave the rest piled up and blowing in the wind like some vague reference to Dune.

It was good. I was afraid it would be hard (aka “fresh”) but luckily, it tasted more like buttered niblets coated onto a handle. That’s a good thing, FYI. I was a bit disappointed that the back side of my particular ear got burnt, but I’ve got a small stomach so it all works out.

Now full (I’m just kidding!********) I took some time to admire the winning entries in the Arts and Crafts Hall, culminating in this:

First Prize (to the left): A Captain America shield. Respect.
Third Prize (to the right): An upside-down mockingjay pin from The Hunger Games. Um…less respect.
Then again, maybe the Cap shield is upside-down too. What do I know? I’ve rented umbrellas.

Okay. Time for more food. I had downloaded a map of this year’s newest deep-fried offerings, and, although Deep Fried Girl Scout Cookies and Deep Fried Swiss Rolls were tempting, I had to go with that holiday classic:

Ahhhh…just like Mom used to make.

Actually, although the lady at the booth handed me what looked like a cornish game hen on a stick…

…it actually tasted pretty good*********. It was like they’d made a KFC Famous Bowl for breakfast: French toast, bacon, donuts…the only thing missing were scrambled eggs. I was actually surprised that most of the deep-fried stuff was fairly blase, comparatively. I think they might need a little brainstorming help over there, which obviously means it’s time for a quick game of…

I would totally buy a deep-fried product if I could
break off the deep-fried part, open the bag inside
and eat hot, steamed potato chips within. Mmmm.

Obviously, the Deep-Fried Monte Cristo sandwich would be rolled in chocolate sprinkles.

That one’s a gift, State Fair. That one’s on me.

Now, I had two choices at this point:
1) Play fairway games.
2) Go on carnival rides.

You, having just imagined my DFMCRICS, can understand where my stomach was at in that moment, sooooo I popped some balloons and won myself a Kung-Fu Coconut.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what they meant by ‘Fruit Ninja.’

I tried three times to climb the unstable rope ladder game to bring home a giant off-brand Tweety Bird, but even my parkour training was not up to the task. I flipped over on the last rung, reaching for the bandanna. I bounced down the inflatable landing pad, disheartened, but a gaggle of hipsters********** standing nearby said how well I’d gone, so that cheered me up considerably. Because, as you know, one of the things on my Bucket List is: “Really impress a six-pack of hipsters.”

Hold up. Don’t let me forget THE best “ride” at the Fair. If you are between ages 3 and 93 (sorry great-grandma) and you weigh less than 175 pounds (sorry, Uncle Will), and if you’re willing to take off your shoes in a public place (sorry, Matt), then I want you to go RIGHT NOW and ride this:

Yes, it’s giant inflatable-raft cylinders that you climb in and run around inside of…ON WATER. They won’t let you on if you’ve been drinking, but let me assure you: spend five minutes sockfooting inside of a giant hamster wheel, and I guarantee you’ll be giggling and falling over even fully sober. I assume that’s something you’d enjoy …but then, I rent umbrellas.

All right, it’s time for the main attraction. PIG RACING FOR A CHEEZ DOODLE.

Okay, I admit, it’s a well-thought-out show format. There were 5 races: pigs, goats, larger pigs, ducks, and pot-bellied pigs. The announcer had his patter down –well– pat, and there’s enough swag-for-audience-participation to make it all come together. One caveat there: in the last race, the announcer said, “Okay, kids, you’ve had your turn. Now we’re going to give a prize to an adult woman. Ladies, who wants to be the Pig Queen?”

I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to say that.

Speaking of, I have an air of sophisticated wordplay about me************, so I found myself distracted for most of the race by the pig names, which were one-offs of NASCAR racers:

Rutter Martin (Mark Martin)
Hoggy Stewart (Tony Stewart)
Piggy Gordon (Jeff Gordon)
Squilling Earnhardt Jr. (Dale Earnhardt Jr)

As you can see, those are not puns. Now, I certainly could see their saying that the pigs are just members of those families who’ve leaned forward so far they walk on all fours (little brothers, if you will…NATE), but let’s get down to brass tacks: those pigs deserve better. They deserve pun names.

So, off the top of my head (as if they were baseball caps):

Pork Martin
Hamboney Stewart
Truffle Gordon
Babe Earnhardt Jr.

Maybe they don’t want to use pigs-as-food words. Fine. Let’s broaden our base to include other NASCAR stars:

Matt Kenseth becomes Mud Kenseth
Joey Logano becomes Sooey Logano
Kevin Harvick becomes Pigpen Harvick
Denny Hamlin: No change

…And Danica Patrick can be the Pig Queen.

Well, it was finally time to head back to the shuttles. But I COULDN’T leave the State Fair without a caricature! I haven’t gotten one of those since I was 8!

And apparently, I still haven’t.

Well, regardless, I had a good time. I went alone, so it was less fun than if there had been someone to snark to (beyond my Instagram followers). To those who are on the fence, I recommend it. To those who are apathetic about it, I suggest you go with someone like me, who’s interested in just a taste of everything the Fair has to offer. That way, you can get a kick out of their enjoyment, not stay too long, and maybe find something that makes it worthwhile for you as well.

And to everybody who goes, definitely check out the wandering giant robot on a segway who dances to Gangnam Style. Or show up Saturday for the Gangnam Style Flash Mob, if that’s your thing. Or not. What do I know? I’ve rented umbrellas.

** More the fool me, as it turns out.
*** Which is also how Honey Boo Boo calls to her pet cats.
**** I could have parked closer and PAID for the privilege; that is, after all, how the families with yards around the fairgrounds pay for their giant flat-screens (or, more likely, how they pay for their landscapers’ flat-screens).
***** This column not paid for by Troxler for Commissioner of Agriculture.