a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Going to the Fair Ain't What She Used To Be

Friday, August 03, 2018

Going to the Fair Ain't What She Used To Be

SUMMARY: With occasional appearances of Mr Fox No.12.

I loved visiting the county fair when I was younger. Miles and miles of livestock from the tiniest decorative chickens or rabbits to the largest long-horn cattle and draft horses.

Food vendors of myriad confections, from cotton candy to pepper steak to garlic fries (and ice cream!) and everything in between.

Winners and participants of nonlivestock competitions: Saliva-inducing canned goods, perfectly hand-stitched clothing, rainbows of quilts, woodworking, metalworking, photography, people's carefully curated collections of curiosities, table-setting examples.

Hawkers of fantabulous whoozitzes and whatnots that you might not see anywhere else.  And of course the carnival rides and games, gleaming, glistening, shining, glowing, in a thousand colors at day and oh so much at night. 

The Santa Clara County fairgrounds used to have a field/racetrack/grandstand, too, that drew crowds for whatever was going on at any given hour.

But--probably largely through receding interest as the agricultural Valley of Heart's Delight became Silicon Valley--the fair gradually became a shadow of its former self. Wasn't helped along by management who decided to raze the grandstand/field and all of the livestock buildings and facilities some years back, and then couldn't come up with any sort of replacement that was acceptable to the neighbors or general residents of Santa Clara County.

But--we went briefly yesterday anyway. The entry arch is the same one that has been there as long as I can remember.

Yesterday was LGBTQ day/night at the fair, as they try to draw in new audiences. So there were a lot of rainbows to put us in a cheery mood. It was a good start but didn't last long and was spotty the rest of the time.

We weren't thrilled with the entrance, even. So I'll start by complaining, apologies--it gets better (I think). We went yesterday because the fair's web page said $1 entrance all day Thursday. When we got there, it wasn't, and when I got home, their page no longer said that.

And they had the entrance very poorly laid out: Big sign pointing to "Entrance" which was a long maze of fences set up to contain a huge line (no line when we got there), and as we headed through towards the end of that, we saw people coming back in our direction and discovered that the ticket booth sat  *outside* the maze even thought it was right next to the far end of the maze where the ticket takers were. So we had to walk back along that maze (neither of us feeling physically at our best), then walk back down alongside it to get tickets, then walk back out alongside it again and all the way through it again, so I wasn't feeling charitable before we even got inside. I wasn't grumpy enough to ask one of the guards to just move part of the fence for us to walk through--wish I had. Oh, well.

OK, mostly I won't complain more; I'll just be wistful as we go.

Mr Fox No.12 came along but didn't have much to say. He said he thought that speech was generally free in the U.S. of A. but based on the condition of this location, it seems to be a little under attack, he said. He stayed low in case of sudden mass shootings in the area.

Once inside,  you betcha we spotted this right away.

We sat on a bench in the shade--it was warm, not super-hot, but my delicious but drippy dipped cone called for sitting and ice creaming and talking.

Next up: The large animal building (not a barn--those are long gone. This is a repurposed building that used to hold other exhibits and vendors). We walked through, but all the lanes between rows were closed and most of the animals were tied up facing the other way or sleeping on the far side of the pens, so that was quick and dull.

No.12 says that he saw more interesting sheep than these up in Oregon and Idaho, he says. He did scare one into moving suddenly, though, when he tried to jump off my neck when i leaned forward to take a photo. He thought that was pretty entertaining.

What sheep do when their neighbor kicks sawdust in their face.  [Nothing, apparently. Maybe he was keeping an eye on Mr Fox. Made me smile, though.]

Be glad your neck wrinkles aren't like these.

[Dangity ding dong, I just realized that all of my photos have Mr Fox No.12's signature on them because I neglected to turn that off in my smallification dialog. Darn it.]

Pretty much all the sheep, goats, and pigs that we saw looked more like this: Plump and sleepy and uninterested in giving us photo ops. Didn't they get the memo?!

Here, all the animals were projects of 4H or FFA or the like, so they were also educational projects, meaning that educational info put together by the kids lined the pens.  Perhaps without much proofreading.  But I always learn something.

This is pretty much what all the cattle looked like to us.

A quick glimpse along the pig row of the large animal building. Those are exhibitors in the middle; we couldn't walk through there.

I'm definitely sad when I go these days because it's even less than a shell of what it used to be. Don't know whether that was entirely inevitable or as a result of management over the last decade or two. This is the main entry plaza, first thing you go through. Bare.  Not many vendors of any kind anywhere.

(My sister, an avid Society for Creative Anachronism member, said that they used to provide demos of fighting and other medieval activities here in this plaza until they realized that, even on Saturday and Sunday, their group made up about half of the people actually in the plaza.)

The "competitions" hall held the usual remnants of what used to be huge displays of photos, collections, table settings, crafts, sewing, canned goods, etc. Some nice things still, and I like looking at them.  But I sure wish there were more.  Everything done pretty much by youth (K-12), now, not much in the way for adults to participate in. There are some delightfully talented young people out there, though, and that always bodes well for the future, I think.

I did like the socially conscious quilts, including some sections from the AIDS quilt and one beautiful and moving one for the Sandy Hook shooting with the names as part of the quilting. (All but the AIDS quilt also done by "youth".)

And this--

The quilt took me back to the '80s and early '90s, when they were just figuring out what was going on, and there was so much stigma, and so very, very, very many people, particularly here in the San Francisco Bay Area, dying. Frightening times.  I'm so glad that we've made progress on all those fronts.

Read more about the quilt at aidsquilt.org.

(This chart is from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. My feelings were more of remembering how hard the times were back then, viewed now from a distance, and relief that things got better. Still not perfect, but so much better.)

(My fair-going friend points out that things might not be as much better as they appear.)

So--back to the fair in general: Just a few of the things in the competition hall (which was also pretty sparse), but some beautiful items to regard. Look how that honey glows!

This is a painted gourd. (For exhibit only, not in competition.) "Miniature Garden Gourd House on Stump" by Iris Gach.

As a collector of dragons (and some other random things, don't cha know), I've always liked looking at people's personally curated collections at the fair. Like these piggies.

Outside, between the buildings, spray-paint artists were hard at work. How DO they do that directly out of spray cans?!
(Wolf. Purple. Love both.  Ooooowwwwwoooooooooo!)

Displays in the other exhibit hall were the now-usual bugs, reptiles, and Dianetics, and not too many of those, either; hall mostly empty.

One part of one of the old exhibit halls was set up as the Wizard's Challenge, which provided giant chess, giant checkers, a bunch of other giant games and toys, and this delightful giant bubbles station.  Dip, pull, and stream, and wowwwwww giant bubbles!  You could even capture a nearby friend in one!

Friend was having miserable back spasms and my hip was none too good, so we didn't stay all that long and didn't see all that much of the fair.   Didn't make it out to the carnival part, although that was our original goal for photos. Supposed to be larger this year, and if it goes well, it'll be back next year. Or, if not, there are other fairs within easy driving distance for future reference.

Instead, we quickly called it a day and headed over to Applebee's for dinner. My salmon and veggies were very good; certainly healthier than anything I'd have eaten at the fairgrounds. And one can't beat the air condition and the great companionship as two old (ahem, barely middle-aged?) friends talk up a storm. We always have things to talk about, and that is just plum wonderful.

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