Today was my family's fifth consecutive year going to the Oregon State Fair. It's tradition. Every year we meet my Dad and Marcy at the milking parlor where my brother used to work when he was in high school. We explore the animal barns, gorge ourselves on greasy food (then regret it later), and hit every free exhibit that can handle our big and boisterous family. Several hours later we trudge out to the parking lot with sore feet, bloated bellies, and lots of new memories made. Today was no exception.
The car ride to Salem was a riot. I'm constantly saying in my nicest authoritative mom voice, "Kids, do you think you could not yell in the car? It's a small space for you to be shouting." But Curt got them all wound up and before I knew it they were chanting in unison, "Greasy food, greasy food, corn dogs, corn dogs, junk food, junk food, state fair, state fair..." Each family member, Curt included, did their own version of a seated dance while they chanted.
We met my Dad and Marcy at the milking parlor and the kids used Grandma Marcy as a measuring stick for how much they've grown. I'm guessing by the next visit Grant will be taller than Grandma and Katie is not far behind. While we were exploring the animal barns I ran into a friend from high school that I haven't seen in twenty years. Talk about a fun surprise!
The fair food did not disappoint. This year we found a new food booth called Monster Foods. Everything they served was so ridiculously over-sized that you could almost watch yourself gain weight when you ordered. Curt and Paige shared The Dominator - a TWENTY-FOUR INCH (that's two feet people) deep fried and heavily battered corn dog. Grant and Katie both took down The Make My Day - a SIXTEEN inch version of The Dominator and our entire family shared a monster-sized order of fries. Alli and I opted for Mexican food (chicken quesadillas and taco salad), while my Dad and Marcy were slightly healthier with BBQ ribs and a stuffed baked potato. While we filled our faces we watched dancers in big big dresses perform to Latin music.
My Dad loves to watch the horse shows. After lunch we went to the pavilion and watched teams of six Clydesdale horses work together to drive a wagon in crazy tight circles. After they finished the miniature horses came in. We each picked a favorite horse and then made bets on who would win. Curt was the only one who guessed right and he made a big deal of fist pumping and bowing to let us (and everyone around us) know he supported the winner.
The US Department of Forestry always has the coolest area for kids. They set up several hands-on, interactive displays that the kids love. This year our kids were able to dress up in fire fighter gear and use a hose to practice putting out a fake campfire. They made necklaces out of wood slices, touched a bunch of fur belts, manhandled poor sea creatures in a tide pool exhibit, and got their picture with Smokey the Bear.
We moved from Smokey the Bear to the Reptile Room. Since Marcy and I are terrified of snakes we skipped that exhibit and looked at caged exotic cats instead. We got up close and personal with a beautiful Siberian tiger then stood in line to view the exhibits of other smaller cats. When we got to the black panther's cage we both wondered aloud why there was a Little Tikes playhouse in his cage and where was the cat? We both died laughing when we realized he was sound asleep on the roof of the playhouse. Nothing like completely missing the obvious.
The kids love the free petting zoo. Each year the pen and number of animals gets bigger. They stayed forever loving on all these animals. Paigey used one of the brushes laying around to "massage the animals when they were eating," and Alli sat right down in the cedar chips to snuggle a baby goat. It was here that we discovered Curt and my Dad own the EXACT same pair of tennis shoes and they both wore them to the fair today. What are the odds of that happening?
The Les Schwab Familyville stage had the Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats on it when we happened by. They were crazy talented and so fun to watch. They sucked in our entire family and had the full attention of the audience. They ended their show by coming off the stage and dancing on the grass with their audience to the song This is Africa. Our kids rushed the stage and Grant showed off his breakdancing moves. When he got up, one of the acrobats high-fived him before heading back to the stage. It was my favorite part of the day.
Curt loves the chickens, so he drug us all through the smelly chicken barn and then proceeded to embarrass us by doing his chicken call. He sounds so much like a chicken that the chickens would cock their heads to the side and look at him curiously like, "He doesn't look like me, but he sounds just like me. What could he be?"
Dessert was cotton candy and ice cream. Ellen Whyte and the Reflux Band serenaded us as we ate our dessert. The girls were completely taken with the music and the performance. They ran right up to the stage and stood there swaying their hips, eyes glued on the singer. Eventually they started dancing and doing gymnastics to the music - another highlight.
We looked at old cars, purses, funny signs, and more animals as we trudged our way to the exit. As expected our feet were tired and our bellies bloated. But man did we have fun. In the car on the way to church Grant said, "My corn dog was called Make My Day and guess what? It made my day." We're counting the days until next year.