About two weeks ago, Grant discovered a treasure in our local paper. A poster, detailing every aspect of the Oregon State Fair, was buried in the ads. He pulled it out and scoured it, reading every detail outloud to me and commenting about all the things he was going to do and try when we went. I actually wasn't planning on going to the State Fair, but Grant pointed to the huge logo and said, "It's TOO BIG TO MISS." We thought we'd go last weekend, but it didn't work out, which left today as our only option.
I had gone to the Oregon State Fair several times as a kid and always enjoyed it. My brother, Shane, used to run the milking parlor and so every three days or so, I'd run up a load of clean clothes, pick up his dirty laundry, bring him some "real" food from Mom, and hope for a glimpse of a particular farmer I had a crush on. Each time I'd visit, I would go to the blue and white pillars entrance by the barns and talk my way into the fair ("My brother's working the milking parlor. I have to get his laundry, but I'll come right back out."). One thing I never splurged on was the fair food, so when I met Curt and he took me to the Minnesota State Fair, he almost fell over when I said I had never really eaten "fair food." For him, that was the only reason you went to the fair. To find and consume anything fried that could come on a stick.
We set off today in great anticipation of a fun afternoon, with the kids reciting all the different things they were looking forward to. Curt and I were listening to their desires from the front seat and started counting our cash, figuring in the cost of buying four tickets at the door (Alli and Paige were free) and wondering where we could find an ATM! We parked and were walking across the back "parking lot" (a field with cars parked in) to the blue and white pillar entrance by the barns when we heard some people say, "Excuse me?" twice. We turned around to see a couple in a shiny black car, about ready to exit the fairgrounds. They said, "Do you have tickets yet?" We said, "No" and they said, "Would you like four free ones?" We both started laughing and were almost doing a jig in the brown grass about God's generosity to our family. We gave our free tickets to the lady at the gate and the kids dashed to the outdoor corral, just past the entrance, where farmers were showing their cows and calves combo.
The kids got a kick out of all the animals. We walked through EVERY barn and they oohed and ahhed and petted every animal they could. We saw Future Farmers of America showing their market lambs and clapped for the number one winner. We saw bunnies and chickens with funky hair dos, goats, sheep, both shorn and unshorn, cows and cows and cows, and huge pigs. Katie's oh-so-lady-like and loud comment when she saw a particularly large, male pig was "Look at it's nuts!" Talk about embarassing...
When we were done in the barns, we hit the food stands and ate "dinner" (if you can call it that) at the fair. Our family consumed 3 freshly fried foot-long corn dogs, one foot-long hot dog with all the fixings, a huge basket of french fries, a huge basket of onion rings that were so greasy and hot it took 10 minutes before we could eat one without burning our tongues, a "monster" bag of cotton candy, and an ice cream cone for each one of us. It probably cost at least $50, but it was worth EVERY penny. We inhaled the food, embraced the gut rot that came shortly after and dismissed any hint of eating healthy for the fun of indulging for one day.
We walked the midway, checked out the rides and carnival games and marveled at the crazy people who strapped themselves into a human sling shot and catapulted into space, flipping in circles and called it "Awesome."
We stopped in Familyville, where Paige played in the Toddler Tent while the big kids and Curt went next door to the Reptile Land and petted snakes and various reptiles. GROSS! We ambled through the OMSI tent and played with all the hands-on displays and 3-D puzzles. Grant grilled the man with the crazy large bug collection about bugs native to Oregon and across the country, and all the kids wanted to ride a bucking sheep, but we drew the line there and said No.
As we walked out, again through the blue and white pillar entrance, I was struck by the fact that I was retracing my steps of 15 years ago, only this time with my husband and four kids. And I smiled. The Oregon State Fair for our family was definitely "too big to miss."