I didn't get the chance to return home to go to one of my favorite summertime activities- A visit to the Erie County Fair, but my friend Nina did. Nina and I went to high school together and hung out cracking each other up in art class. She is an accomplished artist and I think the greatest Lord of the Rings fan there is. I asked her to guest blog upon hearing that she would be back in Western New York for the Fair....
Well, last week was the wrap up for the traditional fair in Erie County…but wait what was it called? America’s Fair? In what was an attempt to distance themselves from the fiscal woes of Erie County itself, organizers renamed the annual event America’s Fair. Even newscasters got confused and kept referring to it as “The Erie County Fair.”
We piled in the car on Tuesday morning, Aug. 16 for our annual trek around the famed “Mile Long Midway.” In our party were: my 8 year old nephew Ricky, my mother Nancy, my brother Rick, and me, Nina Kempf. Admission was a mere $3 before 11 am and we just made it. The crowd was a little smaller than one would expect and newscasters did report that attendance was down this year. Our first stop was to be the 4H buildings but on our way we had to ogle the huge porker outside the next to the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs. His name was Dozer and he’s a native New Zealander (bigger than Sala Baker but not as cute). He slept through all the obvious comments about ham steaks and bacon.
In the 4H building, the chickens were nearest the door. Ricky started making a list of which kinds he liked. The “white silky” hens were quite fetching in their fuzzy finery. I also liked the pale feather-footed hen in a cage labeled “Frizzles.” Phyllis Diller would have liked the Puff Laced Polish hen that was mimicking her wild-headed look minus the cigarette holder. There were plenty of geese and ducks, including the lovely “Embden” ducks with gray bodies and black heads. But what fine foul festivities would be complete without a Rhode Island Red? I say, boy, he was nice rooster, but about as sharp as a sack of wet mice…sorry, I began to channel Foghorn Leghorn.
Now, for the best part of the building and what we all came to this blog for: The Bunnies! We had to oooh and ahhhh over the “Maternity Ward” which included 5 itsy bitsy babies compliments of a black doe from Kody Omphalis. We cooed over the adorable Mini Lop Junior by Derby Dumplings as well as the lops being shown off by North Creek Clover of Colden, New York. We also had to check out the little gray fellas that look like Yakov Smirnoff with their short ears and wooly caps called “Jersey Wooly Senior” bucks. Could they be any cuter? Nearby were some white woolies from Flopper Hoppers of Colden. One breed was called a Mini Rex, but my ultimate and all time favorite Fair hares are the long-haired, bent-eared English Angoras. Flopper Hoppers of Buffalo had the cutest one, but all the rabbits were absolutely precious. I could have taken them all home.
Our next stop was at the Great Cat Adventures, where Ricky and I posed for a photo with nine week old Molly. She was drinking out of a bottle, but she was already larger than most German Shepherd dogs! One of the adult tigers basked in the shade with his belly up like a lazy house cat. Nearby, a couple of little tigers romped and played, biting each other and growling like ordinary kittens…you can find out more about all the big cats at http://www.greatcatadventures.com/index.html. None of them looked like Nappy D’s “Liger.” Gosh! Some of the staff wore humorous black t-shirts that stated: “I didn’t claw all the way up the food chain to eat vegetables!”
We stopped to get the obligatory Erie County Fair beverage: Birch Beer (root beer’s regional seasonal cousin). For $4 we got a souvenir cup which of course I forgot to bring home! I split some French fries with Ricky, who didn’t mind that I doused them with vinegar, salt, and ketchup. Naturally, we had to make the rounds at the petting zoo, where for a mere 25 cents you can get your hand slobbered on by goats! Now that we’re all safe and politically correct, they even include a hand-washing station. Ha! When I was young, you had to carry your germs all the way to the nearest bathroom (where for 25 cents you can wash your hands while some woman you’ve never seen before in your life calls you “honey” as she tells you that stall number 6 is now open). In the bathrooms, which we do use on account of all the Birch Beer, the familiar sweet talking attendants are there. Exiting, I have to stop myself from laughing out loud. There she is, all the way from sketch tv, one of the contestants from the Lilian Vernon Catalog Quiz Show…and she’s wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a fluffy cat that reads: “Oh, the Paws-ibilities!” I knew that I had to remember HER for the blog report.
Along our way, Ricky and Grandma Nancy stop to admire the SkyHunter’s Birds of Prey. My brother and I chat with Mrs. Tucker, or as I knew her growing up “Ann Marie’s Mom.” We got a brief rest from the sun inside the conservation building, which as usual had some awesome taxidermy. There were bears, lynx, owls, squirrels, you name it, they’ve stuffed it. No more procrastination, it was finally time for the Midway. Snubbing the games, we went on some rides. Me and both generations of Rick went on the super gigantic Ferris Wheel. They could see the city of Buffalo from the top, but I was afraid to turn round. Fear of heights? What fear of heights? My mom later asked me if we could see the car where it was parked. Are you kidding me? I could barely look down. The boys went on the bumper cars and the giant swings. Ricky and I fought centrifugal force on the Himalayan who’s music is so loud it almost makes you forget that every blood cell in you body is spinning to the left. I’m a little nauseous just writing about it. We walked and walked, taking in all the smells and sights, all the folks large and small and in between. I took Ricky into the sideshow, which was unfortunately split into two separate locations. We paid a dollar to peek at the snake girl, which was the old head through the table gaffe. I meant to tell Ricky about “the gaffe” and regale him with a few sentences of cizzarnizzy tizzalk, but he was preoccupied with thoughts of winning more goldfish in one of the games. I highly recommend you rent Robert Williams in “Carny Talk.” But only the grown ups. It’s got some adult content as the famous illustrator and painter recounts his youthful adventures on the midways of America. That’s Robert Williams, famous painter, not Robin Williams, famous hirsute. Both of whom I’ve met, by the way.
We also took time to watch Jerry Ward, the chainsaw artist. We used the “footsie wootsies” which rattle every bone in your foot for 25 cents. It was nice! We also checked out more buildings, ate more junk food, and saw tractors, snowplows, hot tubs, hat-wearing cats, singing Indians, live reindeer, live bears, antique fire fighting equipment, amateur art, orchids, and guns that shoot mini-marshamallows.
We spent a total of 8 hours at the fair. Wow! Next year, we’ll do it all over again!