Aug 252010

Well. It was bound to happen sometime. My streak of county fair-happiness officially came to a screeching halt on Saturday pretty much the moment Henry, Chooch, Alisha and I pulled into the field-cum-parking lot. $9 got us into the fair and I kept going on about how good it was that the rides were included in the admission.

Then I saw the rides and immediately wanted a refund.

There was no Zipper. No Freak Out. Nothing that looked new and daring.

Chooch found one of those obstacle course things and spent most of the day bounding to his feet at the bottom of the slide and getting right back into line. We kept trying to get him on rides that would do all the work for him, but he enjoys working for his entertainment. I did, however, get him to ride this little dragon coaster with me, but it was no Caterpillar, I’ll tell you that right now. Although it was pretty exciting that a carny was WORKING ON THE RIDE while we were on it. And half of the seats were broken so Alisha unfortunately couldn’t get on the same ride as us. I could tell she was sad by the way Henry was holding a discarded tub of Skoal under her face to catch her tears.

The only ride there that was semi-thrilling was 1001 Arabian Nights. When I saw it in the distance, it looked like the kind of the ride that swings up into the air vertically, while flipping the seats upside down. But all it did was swing to the side and over the top a few times, then if we were lucky, the dickhead carny would make it change directions.

The first time we rode it, after the safety bar went over our heads, Alisha warned me not to lift the bar in the middle. “It hurts,” she said. But I thought she was saying, “You have got to lift this thing right here, it gives you such a fantastic sensation,” so I did it. Right as the carny was stomping past.

“DON’T DO THAT,” he growled. Then he SHOOK HIS HEAD, like he’s so sick of assholes like me or something. I didn’t really understand what I did wrong. I was merely inspecting my safety. Something comes down over my head, I want to know about it. I had a huge beef with him after that.

Of course, we rode it again. This time, we sat in the back and he kept making threatening eyes at me. So I kept pointing at him. Then, just as the ride was gaining momentum, he made it stop! I honestly thought it was because I was antagonizing him, but evidently there was some kid in the front row who kept putting her legs out or something? This is according to Alisha, and she does have a crystal ball so we should just believe her.

With the ride at a stand still, he hulked his way over to the kid who dared defy him and began to yell. I’d love to tell you what he yelled but I unfortunately haven’t collected enough Pabst tabs to send away for my carny decoding ring.

He eventually started the ride back up again, but only let it swing around one direction so the ride was only half as long as it should have been.

“That guy’s such a bully,” Alisha cried in disgust.

“I’ll handle it,” I said. And when I walked past him after the ride was over, I blasted him with my best third grade cough-insult.

“Mmmm-BULLY!” I coughed loudly when he was right in front of me. He just kept his lips pulled back into a tight smirk and I wanted to coldcock him.

I caught up with Alisha and excitedly said, “I did it! I did it for you!”

“You didn’t do that for me,” she schooled. “You did it because this fair sucks and you’re bored, so you’re trying to cause drama with the carnies.”

She is so fucking right, too.

He’s no Kirk, I’ll tell you that much. He is no Kirk.

There was no organization to anything. The rides were just strewn about in this desolate field, and the “midway,” if you could even call it that, wasn’t level and had thick hoses and wires snaking about in no particular fashion. I had to make sure I looked down at all times while walking. The food choices were dismal, so I just didn’t eat at all. There were no real vendors like at the Big Butler Fair, so there was nothing really to keep us busy once we rode all the broken down rides, and I do mean broken down.

We were standing next to the Tilt-a-Whirl while Chooch was on some spinny kid ride and overheard the carny say, “FUCK. This is the sixth time today it overheated” as we watched all the riders exit post-haste.

The Hurricane was broken down when Alisha and I attempted to get in line. The dragon roller coaster was broken down later in the day once my sister got there and Chooch wanted to ride with Brooke. We attempted to go on the Paratroopers, but it was temporarily closed because someone puked on it. “Unless you want to help us clean it!” laughed a carny approaching with a bucket. It was a horrific scene.

We did end up riding the Paratroopers later in the day, after it had been disinfected. Standing in line, I watched as all the umbrellas swung past and it made me sad to see how faded and chipped they were. And while on the ride, I looked down at the rest of the fair and was honestly overcome with sadness. It was such a depressing sight. Litter all over the dead grass, tattered awnings covering the game booths. None of the rides looked like they were taken care of; most of them had cars that were practically Caution-taped. Even the Paratroopers had umbrellas that were out of commission.

It was like going to a battered woman shelter and taking them out for a ride. That’s how broke-down and depressing the entire atmosphere of the Washington County Fair was. I felt horrible that I suggested my sister meet us there.

But at least Chooch and Brooke got to ride things together.

Brooke originally wanted no part of Chooch’s obstacle course obsession, but he finally convinced her to try it and she quickly became a believer. If it hadn’t started pouring down rain, they probably would have stayed on it all night.

My sister Amy, Chooch, Brooke and I were in line to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl. It was almost our turn and of course it broke down. We tried again after spending 47 hours in the petting farm. This time, we made it on the ride! As the carny opened the gate for us, he smiled real proudly and boasted, “I just had my first puker of the day!” That probably should have concerned us more than it did, but we shrugged and picked a car.

The fucker only went around 2 or 3 times before breaking down. “It overheated again,” the carny said sadly. “Come back in 20 minutes!” Yeah, no thanks.  Riding the Tilt-a-Whirl was like trying to fuck a flaccid dick.

This was the only ride that looked nice. Unless you hate clowns.

Let me try and make it easy for to get a feel for where we were. When we were standing in line to get in, we couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation a family was having behind us. The man sounded like he’s on the King of the Hill voice over pay roll. Then I turned around and saw that the voice belonged to the body in the picture above and I was actually startled. Henry even at one point said, “I feel like we’re in the backwoods of Kentucky, not Washington, PA” and Henry never judges!

Even the balloons look dejected! Like saggy grandma hobo boobs. It’s 2010 but this is a NEW GAME AT THE FAIR. The president of J&J Amusements surely had to have sold his collection of raccoon hats to afford such lavish entertainment. None of the game carnies even bothered to entice us to play. Let’s get one thing straight here, I go to fairs to feel good about myself, to have a carny ogle my tits and try to wrangle me over to his game table with a lasso of filthy flirtations and cliched lines. Neither of these things happened there! They were too busy hating their lives.

At least I got to see my sister, if only for a little while. And Chooch had fun, even though judging by his feet it looks like he spent the day trying to cross the border.

  11 Responses to “The Worst County Fair”

  1. I thought of you while we were at the Merry-Go-Round museum on Monday. They had a picture of carousels at old fairs. For some reason they also had a picture of people waiting to get on the trolley to Kennywood. I took a picture of the old picture. One day I’ll get around to posting it on flickr.

  2. It was bound to happen, you finding a fair that sucked. Though I do love your analogy for riding the tilt-a-whirl. And your son does look like he’s been trying to cross the border, but hey, at least he had fun at the obstacle course, right?

    • The Big Butler Fair really spoiled me. I had forgotten how majestic that damn fair was until I went back this summer. Now every other fair and carnival is going to look like dogshit in comparison!

  3. haha i don’t know if you saw the one game booth that said “pize every time” on it or not but that was pretty ridiculous…it seriously is the trashiest fair around(but for some reason we go back every year). I am also startled by how many people actually go to the “emergency tattoos” place and get tattooed…at the fair…in an old busted ambulance..

    • Ha! I missed that one! Although I did see the pug puppies who had no water until Alisha alerted the old couple selling animal feed at the petting farm.

      I would have been able to tolerate the trashiness had there been a better selection of rides! There is little else to keep me entertained at county fairs, that’s the problem!

  4. Aw that was fun. Almost as if I were there with you! Lol. Shucks.

  5. LOL I went to that fair… The only entertainment i got was their was chew spit everywhere, i saw a lady with a beard, and the tractor pull… NOT because of the tractor pull, but because of how excited all the hics were in front of us. The fair frightened me if anything. worst 9 dollars ive ever payed in my life. I felt so… out of place… because i didn’t have a flannel or cowboy boots… people stared at me like i was weird or something.

  6. what your saying is true the old employees were like this but there are many who were fired for not doing their jobs and treating customers very badly. The new employees are much better and now all the rides are up to par. I met these guys recently and had a long talk and they are just normal people like you and me and they get dirty working on the rides and fixing them. Remember what they do is a tough job I am not defending them or anything I am just stating the facts.

  7. Since this is my weekend with my boys (DNA type not the huntin’ an’ shootin’ type), I looked up the NC County fair schedule to see what was happnin’. Catawba was weeks ago. Watsupwidat?
    Caldwell starts 9/29. So we were left with the Alexander County Fair.

    If there hasn’t been a horror movie based on kids relying on the GPS to get them 2 counties over to a fair, the concept is ripe, low hanging, fruit for an enterprising young author.

    Running late, as usual. The bout with my new rooftop antenna installation went into double-overtime, we finally got in the car at 7:55. Between withdrawals from certain neurological meds that recently ran out, general antenna setup confusion, and a fall-off-the-ladder induced headache, the paternal grouchyness was starting to simmer.

    I knew several ways to Taterhill, but Spacy Stacy said she had “the fastest route” all laid out. The “fastest route” consisted of over 10 twisty turny country roads. The moon was bright but the woods were oozing with darkness. I knew my dreaded nemesis was lurking just beyond the feable reach of my headlights. He was waiting to bound out of the dark, unseen until caught in my headlights. Too stupid to continue or retreat. Just standing there, staring at me as if my car slamming into him was his own worst nightmare.

    Luckily, no deer jumped in front of us. But it was pretty scary. The boys couldn’t take the pressure, so they continued staring at their ipads.

    FINALLY, we made it to Hwy 16. The gateway to Taterhill. When Stacy loudly informed us that we were only a mile away from our destination, I told the boys that we should be able to see the lights from the fair any second. We should have known there was a problem when we pulled into the dusty parking lot and STILL didn’t see lights from rides.

    As soon as we stepped out of the car, William mentioned that he smelled “hotdogs and gasoline”. Steven said he smelled only gasoline. “Maybe they’re cooking the hotdogs with flame throwers”, I added. “It IS a county fair afterall. Maybe they needed something bigger and better than deep-fried Twinkies to draw the crowds.” I thought to myself that the local NRA may be working the food this year instead of The Lion’s Club. Makes sense in an odd county fair sort of way.

    $5 each to get in and $15 wristbands to ride all the rides seemed like an OK deal to me. After passing the ticket counter, though, reality set in. There were 8 total rides, but one was broken. The broken one was piled in a heap, not even put together. Oddly, though, the broken ride had its green neon lights on. I guess they thought it might help. It didn’t.

    So we had a choice of 7 rides- 4 of which catered to the under 3 foot tall attendees. Some kind of tiny plastic animal carriages that went in a circle. Airplanes that fly in circles 4 feet off the ground. And, of course, the always exciting cars and motorcycles that continuously chase each other in circles. These looked like the same ride they had at the Catawba County Fair when I was a kid. They had the little steering wheels that didn’t steer, and the bright sparkly paint, but these didn’t have the horns the kids would constantly blow at each other to get out of the way. Remember watching those sparkly cars and motorcycles fly by? The Doppler effect would make the fake engine sounds and all the horns blaring even cooler. But this one didn’t have horns or engine sounds. The blonde woman manning the emergency stop button was pretty, though, so I talked we with her for a few minutes. Even she mentioned how lame this fair was.

    The 3 “big” rides consisted of the “High Roller”, a turning tilted circle thing, and
    swinging chairs on chains. I chose to include the chairs swinging in circles with the “big people” rides because (some) big people can fit in them and riders get to actually feel centrifugal force. Unlike the sparkly cars and motorcycles. I guess the airplane riders get to experience some centrifugal force. But nobody over the age of 6 can fit in the cockpits.

    The turning, tilted circle thing looked promising. Basically, it was a bunch of swinging compartments on a wheel. When the ride started, the circle would go around (as circles tends to do) and a hydraulic arm would tilt the whole circle about 45 degrees. I kept waiting for it to start spinning faster. You know, when the girls start screaming, long hair is flying, and the engine is making that “whooshing” sound like it’s getting ready to fly apart? This one didn’t do that. The pretty woman running the motorcycle ride said it was the guy’s first night running the machine and he was too scared to make it go faster. Really? People pay money to get on a crappy, worn out, fair ride to GET scared but AREN’T scared because the guy that pushes the stop and start button is too scared? Some if the parents watching their kids mosey around quietly were screaming for them. I guess they missed hearing the screams and thought they could enhance the thrill. When my boys got off the ride I was too embarrassed to look at them. Luckily the lights weren’t working on that ride so nobody could see who was riding on it. Since the lights weren’t working I couldn’t see what it was called. I thought it should be called “The Hubcap” because the slow, crooked spinning reminded me of a rolling hubcap making those last, slow turns on the pavement before inertia runs out and it falls over, flat.

    The big, “big person” ride was the “High Roller”. Basically, it consisted of about 6 connected cars that would fly around inside the tiny oval WHILE the entire oval track rotated on its axis. So, rolling fast in a tight oval like a itty-bitty roller coaster WHILE the entire oval track rotates in circles.

    But, of course, the track function wasn’t working so it basically was just a spinning oval. I asked the girl at the gate if many people threw up on the ride. At fairs, a ride’s hurlability factor is a pretty decent indicator of how fun it is. She said not many people threw up but a lot of people lost stuff that fell out of their pockets while hanging upside-down.

    The boys were hungry by now, so we went to the food area. This consisted of one standard counter like you find at high school football games and “tarp” vendors. One of the vendors under a tarp was selling re-heated spring rolls for $1 each. Seemed kind of high too me. The other tarp vendor was a Mexican family selling steak tacos. I got the tacos.

    The boys opted for the standard fare at the traditional counter. William had been saying all night he wanted a corn dog. When the woman at the counter said they didn’t have any corn dogs I began to laugh uncontrollably.

    If this fair were a horse, they would have shot it out of sheer mercy long ago. Seven total rides, no ferris wheel, and no corn dogs. Even the fair people were embarrassed! The no-corn dog woman said 14 rides were supposed to come but only half showed up.

    After I stopped laughing, I explained to the boys about the memory they will have one day of going to the world’s worst county fair. Maybe they could use it as ammo if THEIR kids complained about a fair they drug them to. “You think THIS fair is lame? When I was a kid, your grandfather took me and your uncle to the 2015 Alexander County Fair!”. By that time, I’m sure you will be able to type “world’s worst fair” and this one would show up.

    But my boys are great. They had a good time and didn’t complain once. I told them we would stop by Wendy’s on the way home and get a Frosty. Isn’t it funny how a Frosty on the way home can fix a bad day?

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