8. State Fairs–Carnies and All, Y’all!

7 Jan

At the first state fair I attended outside the South, imagine my distress upon ordering a corn dog and being served something that could have come from the grocery store. Listen up fair food vendors, when I order a corn dog, I want y’all to HAND DIP that weenie. And then brush on the mustard for me. Don’t provide a giant jar of off-brand French’s and expect me to coat the thing myself.

Um, where was I? Oh yes, state fairs.

When I was a kid, we could never enjoy the good fair stuff (rides, games, food) without first trekking through the livestock exhibit. Now maybe this would be exciting for a kid from Manhattan or Los Angeles, but by the tender age of five or six, I’d already seen my fair share of cow patties. Still, we had to tromp past all manner of familiar farm animals and their assorted aromas. Whee! I’m still not sure why this was a requirement, unless it was to teach me the lesson that is still ingrained 30 something years later: “You are responsible for where you put your feet.”

I’ve been to all kinds of fairs and festivals in California and Seattle, but I am still partial to the Mississippi State Fair. Perhaps I’m peering through the rosy-hued lenses of nostalgia, but I really do think Southern state fairs are better. Why? In a word: food.

At any fair, you’ll find the same rickety rides operated by dentally challenged carnies. You’ll find the same rip-off games where you’re lucky to win a goldfish that won’t live to see next Tuesday. Livestock is livestock wherever you may be. But the food? Hoo boy, where do I begin?

First, there are the free biscuits. Let me repeat: Free! Biscuits! With cane syrup that’s made on the spot while you watch (that is, if you enjoy watching mules walk in circles for hours, but you’ve gotta do something to pass the time in the long-ass free biscuit line). You’ll find the usual collection of fried stuff on sticks, but in the South it just tastes better. We’ve perfected the art of deep frying. And, yes, it really is an art. There are the aforementioned hand-dipped corn dogs (affectionately known as “Pronto Pups” which sounds a lot better than the “Krusty Pups” you find in Puyallup, WA). If you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon some “skating rink” style pizza. Of course, you’ll encounter all kinds of barbequed delicacies. And you’ll even find Mississippi-style Chinese food. Yum!

What you most likely won’t see are: Gigantic turkey legs, fried Twinkies, or anything made of tofu. Admittedly, I’ve not been to the fair in a while, but I’ve only run across the aforementioned offerings outside the South.

And the highlight of the event? No, not the gorilla woman or two-headed cobra baby. You can’t really find a good freak show these days. The highlight is the State Fair Taffy. Beware. It is highly addictive, and you will never find any other taffy that compares. Lord knows I have tried.

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2 Responses to “8. State Fairs–Carnies and All, Y’all!”

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  1. 17. Air conditioning « stuff southern people like - January 29, 2010

    […] South, the heat starts up in April and sticks around till October. (One of the reasons I love the state fair so much is that it almost always marks the transition into cooler temperatures. Hence the term […]

  2. 88. Telling folks what they ought to do. « stuff southern people like - March 22, 2011

    […] pavilion, which was a mandatory prerequisite before exploring the more festive parts of the state fair, such as the tilt-a-whirl, caramel apples, and tossing ping pong balls in hopes of scoring an […]

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