four-year-old marcel art (that totally looks like a fair ride feels to me)

four-year-old marcel art (that totally looks like a fair ride feels to me)

Roy brought home a permission slip for his class’ planned field trip to the state fair.


o you want to chaperone?” the form wanted to know. There was a box for me to check that would indicate my willingness to fulfill this role for the class.

I did not check the box.

Fairs are not without their charms. I’ve had some good times there. The first concert I ever attended was at a state fair in Nebraska. John Denver was the headliner. I might have only been 11, but I remember him as being wonderful and, 30 years later, I stand by that assessment.

And as anyone who has seen me eat can attest, I am without pretension when it comes to what I will put on a paper plate for immediate consumption. If you’re working in one of those little huts, frying a Twinkie or a candy bar, you can count on me to queue up to purchase one of them. I don’t want to brag on our state fair too much since the point of this post is mostly to demonstrate how much I can’t stand it, but the food there is pretty good. I once listened to a friend who could not wait to leave this state (and had, at that point, been gone for some time) relive her delight at the roasted ear of corn she was able to enjoy annually at the state fair.

The fair isn’t an a la carte experience, though. There’s no picking a fried Snickers here and John Denver (may he rest in peace) concert there and calling it a day. No. Fairs are day-long experiences. There is no kit without the caboodle at the fair. The food is packed in with the rides (ugh, I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it) which are next to the baby animal tent (poor, over-stimulated baby animals) which bumps up against the pony ride (don’t even get me started).

Mostly my issues with the fair are the same ones that cause me to recoil from the idea of a week at Disney-anywhere where the food probably wouldn’t be nearly as good—but the smell of animal offal wouldn’t be quite as strong. Pick your poison, I suppose.

It’s the crowds and the heat. Although the urban myths about weekend drunkenness and violence on the midway that circulate every blessed year probably aren’t helping much, either. It is hard for me to get excited about paying to park for an event that involves as much dirt and sweat and largely aimless wandering as the fair.

When The Three were smaller, I felt guilty about not taking them. So once every two or three years, I would get propelled there by virtue of another parent’s enthusiasm or their superior ability to plan an organized outing of any sort. I would find myself pushing a double stroller along the paths, looking for a fried candy bar and trying to maneuver my children in front of the crush of the others, just close enough to the chicken wire so that they could see a baby pig.

“It was alright at the fair today,” I would tell Scott, “not too crowded.”

That was the best I could do.

I’m done pretending. I hate the fair and I’m not going again, ever—and especially not with Roy’s class. I read the fine print on that permission slip, specifically his teacher’s prohibition of spending money. No money means no food and certainly no fried Snickers.

Count me out.