The Oregon State fair is held in Salem, the state capital and a shy hour's drive from the house. Our good friend Mark, family-less while his wife and kids are visiting relatives, piled into the back seat with the boys and came along. Hard to tell which of the three enjoy fart humor more.
Is anything more quintessentially American than a state fair? Don't dare say Disneyland--Michigan holds the honor of holding the first state fair in 1849, fifty-two years before Walt was even born and century before Charlotte saved Wilbur with her own writings on the web. The fair showcases everything good and bad about the US--from entrepreneurship to obesity--but most of all it's just a heckuva good time.
First we had to get there. For the last mile or so it was a crawl, bumper-to-bumper traffic to get in the gate and to our parking space at the farthest reaches of the fairgrounds. And no charge for parking. How did the fair miss that opportunity to make a buck?
Oh, the food! It is impossible, and should probably be illegal, to go to the fair and stick to a reasonable dietary regimen. Look, don't whine at me, you can always bump up your insulin by a couple of units, and God invented cardiovascular surgeons for a purpose.
Ice cream, scones, elephant ears and their super-sized cousin the mammoth ear, corn dogs, popcorn. If it can be put on a stick you can find it at the fair. If it can be deep fried, (never mind if it should) it will be. They were selling fried Pepsi, who even thought of that? And in this great melting pot of ours if you don't want hamburgers, hotdogs or barbeque, you can get Greek, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Polish, German, Italian. Really, shouldn't that be the barometer for getting into this country: is your food good? Then come on in! My apologies to the English and Irish--but you had first dibs, and anyway, you get a pass for beer and whiskey.
To truly enjoy this smorgasbord it helps to ignore the migraine-inducing prices. When the kids each got a one-flavor sno-cone for $3.50 apiece I had to suppress the urge to ask someone how anyone could justify three-fiddy for a cup of ice and high fructose corn syrup. I shut up, took pleasure in the smile on my kid's faces, and thought about how much we had saved by not paying five bucks for the ultra-posh three-flavor version.
Heading back to the car when you can no longer see the lights, no longer inhale the smells, you can still hear the fair. The clatter of the rides, the chatter of the barker, snippets of foreign tongues, screams, laughter, and music all blending together to form a soundtrack of America.