28.8.04

An almost perfect day

Today I took the bus from NYC to Kingston, where a friend picked me up. We then headed for the Dutchess County fair. One of the hottest, sunniest days this summer, I slathered on Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 30 (before I left home I applied Shiseido's SPF 55 foundation) and off we went.

First stop: the beer garden for a quick bite and a glance at the map; we were entertained by Pal the Wonder Dog. I then made the mistake of seeing the same women at the Guess My Weight/Age booth that I'd fooled last year; this year she was right on the money. Now, of course, being the obsessive person I am, I'm worried that I really do look my age! And, sadly, it led to an impulsive eating binge (fried dough with powdered sugar). We ate that as we wended our way towards the 4H tent. We had been looking forward to the DC K-9 corps demonstration, but the cattle parade was running a little long.

If you've never seen a cattle parade, basically a bunch of kids walk around leading a cow. It's broken down by age (of child, not of cow) and judged on how well they handle the animal. To ensure fairness, the children swap cows once they're in the ring and have to walk a little with the new cow. All the participants got a ribbon, but there were Blue, Red and Yellow ribbons given to the three best; they were also invited to Sunday's finals.

Then it was time to look through the livestock pens. We'd just missed the sheep shearing, and the sheep were certainly shorn! Some of the sheep, apparently the Tunis breed, were wrapped in what could only be called sheep burquas. How appropriate.

The announcer at the cattle parade kept plugging what she claimed were the best milkshakes, all made with fresh milk. I have to admit, my vanilla was very yummy. I'm not a huge fan of milk (or milkshakes or ice cream) but I'd definitely go back for seconds. If you ever get a chance to have a real one, freshly made with fresh ingredients do not pass it up. Your taste buds will thank you.

More wandering, including a walk through the old machinery exhibit (including a corn sheller and a blacksmith, some fruit lemonade, and then it was time for the cattle costume contest. Apparently previous days had held a horse, rabbit and pig costume contests; today, it was the cows turn. The announcer wanted people not from the area as judges and so, much to my chagrin, I was nominated. My co-judges were also from NYC, but they'd never been to the fair before. Four entries walked in a circle: a little girl in nurse's scrubs with a bandaged cow, an older girl wearing a boa and a brightly colored Mardi Gras painted cow, a minor parade of four people announcing a race between Butterscotch and Wilma (in homage to the Olympics), and a girl dressed as Paul Bunyon with trusty Babe the Blue ox. According to the organizers, the nurse and the Mardi Gras were in classes of one, so they automatically got the blue ribbon. Our choice was between the racers and Babe. No contest: Babe won. Had we been given the choice of all four, however, it would have been the nurse, then Babe, then the Olympics.

Next stop: the crafts pavilion. This is where things like Rawcliffe Fantasy figurines compete with the amazing 22' ladder and the computerized personality reader for your attention. This is right next to the carny side of the DC Fair, and we wandered through the rides and games to the bumper cars.

There's something very wonderful about bumper cars: all your bad driving instincts take over, you can get your aggressions out, and you see everyone smiling. There were two parents with little kids and we all took care to almost, but not quite, bump them. Several times one father said thanks - the kid clearly loved the almost danger.

Then it was on to the grandstand for a few moments with Ms. Cuchi-cuchi herself, Charo. The only thing that could top that was a family of jugglers. Ok, a Daddy juggler/unicyclist and an 8-year-old juggler/unicyclist (aka "Daddy's retirement plan"). Finally, we saw Hilby, the skinny German juggle boy.

Time for the traditional "leaving the fair candy apple" and back home.

Here's a summer's end assignment: Take the time to visit your local county fair, fireman's field days or state fair. Revel in the smells and sounds. Get gypped out of a toy at the carny. Eat fried dough and takeaway sundaes and curly fried. Enjoy. Repeat next year.

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