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State Fair Connects the Hoosier Roots
I've just returned from my first-of-the-season visit to the Indiana State Fair. I'm sunburned. My feet ache. I'm queasy.
In other words, I had a great time.
No surprise there. I always do.
I am an unabashed, unapologetic State Fair nut, and have been for most of my life. I've missed one fair in the last 35, and that was last August, when I had to spend the entire run of the fair recovering from eye surgery. Remind me to schedule the next one for July or September, will you?
Of course, any discussion of the State Fair must begin with food. As soon as I reported to my sister that I had spent the day at the fairgrounds she wanted to know not what I had seen, but what I had eaten. She's always looking for something new to add to her menu of Old Familiar Favorites: elephant ears, pork chop sandwiches, lemon shake-ups, apple dumplings, and at least a taste of whatever deep-fried monstrosity (Twinkies, Snickers bars, Pepsi) is getting the biggest buzz. Also the biggest condemnation from the American Medical Association.
I'm afraid I didn't have much to report on the food front. I had a corn dog and a lemon shake-up, and that was it. However, they were the best corn dog and lemon shake-up on the fairgrounds. I know, because I've researched it for 35 years, and these are the only corn dogs I'll eat. And no, I'm not going to tell you where to find them. Do your own research.
I really don't go to the fair for food anyway. I go for everything else. I love to visit the animal barns. The swine barn is old familiar turf, full of sounds and smells that take me right back to my kidhood in LaGrange County. The poultry barn is like a flower garden, with all those glorious permutations of chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. And I have a special affinity for the draft horses, being kind of oversize and slow-moving myself.
I go to do things I wouldn't ordinarily do. Today I rode an elephant. It cost six bucks. I considered it money well spent. The elephant may have had other ideas. I swear, she groaned when I got on. Then I rode the giant Ferris wheel. It complained less than the elephant, but not much.
And I go to see the Pioneer Farm, my favorite place on the entire fairgrounds. Up there among the old tractors and antique implements, I feel the spirit of my grandfather and father and uncles, men who knew those machines and that life. I connect once again with the place and the people who made me.
It happens every year: I go to the fair to see what's new, I wind up hanging around what's old, and in the end I am reminded of who I am, and why I love my Indiana as much as I do. The people, the work, the traditions, the history, our hope for the future -- the State Fair puts the best of these on display every year.
I think I'll go back tomorrow to appreciate it some more.
Also to get another corn dog.
(Oh, all right. Stop whining. My favorite corn dogs are at the stand right outside the Ag-Hort building. Save one for me, will you?)
© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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