Monday, October 15, 2012

State Fair

We have been to the State Fair every year that we've been living in the Triangle, and this year, the OG had asked to celebrate her birthday there. So I loaded the minivan up with teenagers, and we headed to Raleigh, with a soundtrack of Maroon 5, Pit Bull and Nicky Minaj. All of the girls seemed to know all of the words, which was not as surprising as the conversation, which contained an inordinate amount of discussion of school quality and college choice.

I had equipped each girl with a "funvelope" containing an admission ticket, two sheets of ride tickets, a map and a $20 food and game allowance. I asked the OG to monitor their usage and to let me know if anyone was running low.

The girls were very keen to set off on their own, and we quickly parted company. I managed to extract a promise from the OG to check in via cell phone periodically and from all the girls to stick together.

So off they went, and the BG and I plunged in. It was 10 AM on Sunday, so the park was not too crowded. We noted the cornucopia of food options, and contemplated whether snack/lunch or lunch snack would be a better way to maximize pleasure.

Our first ride was what used to be called the Wild Mouse at Boblo, sort of a mini roller coaster with a shorter train. It was not as thrilling as some of the roller coasters we've ridden at Carowinds and Canada's Wonderland, but it did have a certain ricketiness that added a little bit of danger: it would not surprise me to read about a grisly accident involving faulty equipment or employee negligence.

We then headed to the ferris wheel, where we ran into the other girls, who, except for the thrill averse OG had just come off something called "Zero Gravity." So far. So good. After the ferris wheel, we decided to get a snack on the way over to the animal pavillion and the giant slide. We opted to share an order of cleverly named "fried dough," which we sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

  Sadly, and poetically, I suppose, the fried dough settled in our stomach like a big blob of, well, fried dough, and a lemonade was all we were able to subsequently find room for. The other girls had a similar experience with the deep fried oreos.

At the animal pavillion, the BG was keen on milking a cow. She had been to the fair on a class trip last year, and the students were told to enjoy themselves, but also that they couldn't go on any rides, and that there wasn't time for any of the participatory activities. Which sounds like torture. The wait for the cow was about 10 minutes, and the cost was $2, with proceeds going to a good cause of some kind. When we got to the front, I handed over the bills, and someone asked why I didn't want to do it, as well. I figured, that since the money was going to a good cause, plus I had never done it, I ought to cross it off the list.

We learned a lot about bovine husbandry from a young man in a cowboy hat, and the BG enjoyed her souvenir carton of chocolate milk, whose relationship to the tubs we had just been filling was unclear, but hopefully far removed. I can't believe I forgot to take pictures. I guess I lost my head in all the excitement.

After the cows, we enjoyed a hands-on demonstration of beekeeping by a man in a screened enclosure, and conducted our traditional race on the giant slide, with transport facilitated by a burlap blanket with a pocket for your feet. My superior bulk enabled me to win the first race, but the BG used an ultra-forward leaning technique, with a sort of paddling motion to win the second. I thought it wise, at that time, to retire from the racing business, still undefeated, with a sole tie as the only asterisk on my still perfect record.

We had enough tickets for one more ride before I needed to check in on the teens again, and I offered the BG a choice between the swings and the Zipper, a sort of fast-moving ferris wheel that houses the riders in metal cages that spin uncontrollably. "What do you think?" she asked diplomatically. Now, besides the Tilt-a-Whirl, I haven't been on a "spinny" ride in 20 years, and unlike roller coasters, they don't have nearly the same allure as they used to. But I knew the BG really wanted to maximize the thrills, so I gamely said "Well, we've never tried the Zipper." "Hooray!"

I put my phone in the side pocket of my cargo shorts (key plot point) and we were strapped in to a cage. The cages rocked back and forth a bit as we moved up and around, but it wasn't nearly as dizzying as I had expected. "Maybe we don't spin all the way around." I ventured.

At that point, the ride accelerated, and we started spinning like crazy, seemingly in every direction. As the adrenaline kicked in, I let out a scream of delight, which was quickly followed by a thunk as my phone slid out of my pocket. After the initial terror passed, I remembered that we were in a cage, but as I frantically searched for it and the BG tried to figure out what the helen of troy was going on, I wasn't finding it.

As the ride ended, we staggered unsteadily out of the cage, I told the attendant that I had lost my phone. He looked at me uncomprehendingly, and at the same time, an older woman, who, more prudently was waiting on the ground for her child, asked if I had lost my phone. There it was, sitting quietly on the grass, and I quickly retrieved it, undamaged and operational. Thank you Apple.

As we struggled with the return to solid ground, and our incredulousness over what had just happened, the BG and I slowly began to enjoy the great feeling conveyed by a momentous event in which a catastrophe is narrowly avoided. I checked in with the OG, and we arranged to meet at 1:30 at the gate where we had entered.

Which we did, without incident. The fair was quite crowded at that point, and the girls were ready to leave. Two of them had won stuffed animals at the birthday guessing game, and another sported a tiara. We headed back to the car, and I dropped the BG off at her Lego League meeting and returned the other girls home.

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