I'm kind of getting "fair fever". I know that a lot of fairs have already come and gone and for the most part I haven't had the slightest desire to go to one since I was a kid. I mean, they're expensive, crowded, some crazy shit always seems to pop off right in front of you and you're like boxed in by all the people around you and being herded towards a potential gang fight with no clear visible escape route in sight, but all of a sudden I'm overcome with a yearning to go to the fair.
Specifically, I'm thinking about the Caruthers Fair. Now, for anyone reading this who doesn't live in Fresno county, Caruthers is a tiny rural town about 25-30 minutes south of Fresno and about 10 minutes north of my hometown of Riverdale. Fun fact: Caruthers and Riverdale are high school sports rivals of legendary status, like our parents and their parents used to screw with each other, shit is a tradition. Anyway, Caruthers holds an annual fair and it's great because it's not as big as, say, the Fresno Fair and typically there is less ridiculous gang violence and drunken mayhem, although both have kind of escalated over the past 10 or so years. Still, you're far less likely to get randomly shiv'ed walking around the Caruthers fair, which is a plus.
The other good thing about the Caruthers fair is that it's not held in the middle of summer like most of the other fairs in the central valley. It's kind of nice to not have to eat your cotton candy before it melts and get 3rd degree sunburns walking from one puke ride to the next.
But, the best things about the Caruthers fair, or any good fair for that matter, are all the little treats and activities that you really only get to see and do at the fair.
The smells of the fair are awesome. Corn dogs mixed with burnt sugar from the cotton candy machine and the smell of oil from all the deep fried stuff and whoever is grilling that awesome-smelling meat somewhere! Just be careful not to get too close to the FFA barn, because manure is NOT one of the awesome fair smells.
Speaking of the smell of food, fair food is great. Well, great in that it tastes great, it's physically borderline toxic but you can walk most of it off cruising around between the rides and the rigged carny games. Giant corn dogs slathered in mustard, huge coifs of cotton candy, giant pretzels, ridiculous towers of soft-serve on an ice cream cone that can't possibly support it, and at some point, will fail to do so, thus costing you a good 40% of your ice cream stockpile. Pink popcorn, deep fried whatever is trendy to deep fry this fair season, funnel cakes, garlic fries... basically every deliciously bad food item you can think of and they're only all available in the same area once a year.
After eating all that unhealthy food, what better way to purge it from your system than taking a ride on the Zipper? Fair rides are the best, partly because they're so sketchy, like I think a couple of those bolts have literally just been replaced with some bailing wire and the dude running the ride literally just asked me if I had any pot he could buy - and partly because they're so scary fun. I mean, getting flipped upside down in a weird rotating ferris-wheel type ride that looks like a Spyrograph piece and is still hooked up to the truck that hauled it in while trying not to vomit up the 3lbs of fried food and soda in your gut is not unlike riding a bull in the rodeo, you just gotta hang in there for about 8 seconds and the ride will be over. To this day, one of the most amazing things I have ever seen was thanks to a ride at the Caruthers fair. It was called the Gravitron, and it is basically a spinning centrifuge type of ride that looks like a flying saucer. Everyone straps into these seats that rise up to the top of the ride as the G-forces increase from the spinning. At full speed, you can barely lift your arms, there's lights everywhere and cheesy 80's rock blasting. At any rate, I'm in this thing, spinning at full tilt Willy, and some kid about 5 people down suddenly throws up his entire payload of fair grub. Now, at full speed, the G-forces sucked his vomit up and away from him and it was just sort of sitting there above his head in the top crease of the ride, but as soon as the ride came to and end and the spinning began to slow, the whole load of puke dumped right onto his head. It was like the most glorious display of scientific theory since Galileo figured out you can light your own farts.
So, now you've eaten a bunch of delicious and terrible food, thrown it all up on a ride that will likely result in you having to see a Chiropractor weekly for the rest of your life and now you're sitting there with some money and tickets still left in your pocket like a dummy. Time to play some games!
Time to throw the tiny, bafflingly weighty rings around coke bottle necks to try and win a giant stuffed animal that will literally explode if it comes in contact with an open flame or spark. Time to flick dimes onto flat glass dishes that appear to be covered in Pam to try and win some carnival glass. Time to try and shoot the entire star out of a piece of paper with a bb gun to try and win a Guns n Roses mirror that you will definitely snort coke off of at some point in your life. Time to pop balloons with a dart to win a poster of some hot bikini babe in a red swimsuit with fake flames behind her. Time to demonstrate your mediocre pitching ability by trying to knock all of the apparently pure lead milk bottles off the stool so you can get a balloon on a stick that looks like Optimus Prime. Time to play some skeeball, fill up a clowns mouth with a water gun until the balloon coming out of his head pops first, time to whack some moles.
Then... bumper cars! Oh hell yes, time to slam into the dad with his little kid with him and try to launch junior out of the car. Time to smash, head-on, into the two cute girls driving around in circles and laughing the whole time, then try to get their numbers after the ride is over. See, a head-on collision is a great conversation starter. Time to go into co-op mode with your buddy and pick out the marks and double-T-bone them. Bonus points if you get anyone over the age of 12 to start crying. Time to mercilessly hammer the one poor sap who can't get his car to work right and just sits off to the side trying to figure out how to start it. Gotta stay on him, don't let the dude running the ride get a chance to come over and start it for him!
Man, all this puking and wasting money on rigged games and Death Race 2000 bumper-massacring is giving me an appetite! Time for some garlic fries, a root beer float and... omg... is that an ethnic food stand??? Holy shit balls, I'm getting a gyro or some lumpia or a chimichanga or something! And you know what, throw in a package of pink popcorn, cuz it makes my throw up look like fruity pebbles.
And that's it, that's the recipe for an amazing day at the fair. Mix in a bunch of hot girls in skimpy clothes, cuz it's still pretty warm out, and a giant jawbreaker or something to take home and nurse on for 6 months and you have a pretty complete fair-going experience. Maybe it's been just long enough since my last fair experience that I'm willing to overlook the crazy dudes in Raider's jerseys who want to fight anyone who looks near them, the kids who throw up right in front of you and almost cause you to have a chain-reaction chunk blow of your own and the throngs of sweaty turds who always bump up against you and rub their gross wetness off on you a little bit, but I'm kind of nostalgic to go to the fair again this year. Maybe I'll just make myself a corndog and ride a shopping cart down a hill and pretend...