A Tale Of Two County Fairs: Part I: Compare And Contrast

Recently I went to two rural country fairs in two adjacent counties. Both fairs were similar in size but they were in very different venues. One was in a town that’s poor, very rural, and the county itself is sparsely populated. The other (only an hour’s drive away) was in a small “city” that’s far less poor, and the county’s population is about triple it’s neighbor. It was practically a controlled experiment!

  • At the “poorer” fair I drove up in my truck, parked in a field, and walked into the fair. No money changed hands and nobody cared where I parked. I didn’t see any “staff”.
  • At the “richer” fair I was intercepted at the paved road and waved into an elaborate multi-lane queue. The queue was manned by a fleet of volunteers outfitted with matching t-shirts, reflective vests, and scowls. I handed an utterly humorless, reflective clad, future TSA employee $5. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and dismissed me with an imperious wave. Then I was shunted from one grim, menacing, volunteer to the next until I parked exactly where I was “ordered” to park. I counted seventeen volunteers in all. They all acted like the pre-fair warm up was to get kicked in the spine before attending their Mother’s funeral. I’m not sure why one fair got by with an open field and the another needed a militia to collect $5. Nor am I sure why volunteering to “help” park cars makes you desolate and hardened. It simply it is what it is. (Note: both parking fields were roughly the same size and equally filled. Despite what you’ve been led to expect, “chaos” did not break out in the unmonitored field.)
  • Dogs have fleas; fairs have politicians. At one fair the Democrats and Republicans had (nearly) adjacent booths.
    • Democrats were giving out bumper stickers (I forgot what they said).
    • Republicans were giving out little copies of the Constitution! Rock on!
    • The Democrats just had a stack of bumperstickers. Want one? Grab it.
    • The Republicans made you answer a trivia question (American History) before you got your Constitution. Racists!
    • The Republicans gave candy to children (but not adults). One pre-teen kid didn’t want candy. He dutifully (and correctly) answered his question and received his Constitution. I practically exploded in joy.
    • America Fuck Yeah!
  • At the “poorer” fair I bought a raffle ticket for a gun.

    • There’s always a gun raffle.
    • As is customary, the profits go to charity.
    • I always buy a ticket.
  • At both fairs but especially the “poorer” one there were booths run by many churches.

    • Soulless heathen that I am, I couldn’t differentiate the difference between booths.
    • The assorted denominations seem to get along fine. I’m glad because a religious war at the fair would feature old folks with heart conditions and it could get ugly.
    • They all wanted to save my soul. Thanks guys, I appreciate it.
    • A few went overboard with graphic anti abortion stuff. I avoided them like the plague. Even if abortion is murder we don’t need an ugly poster near the cotton candy booth.
    • One was giving away free water. Don’t drink the water!
  • At the “poorer” fair I bought a raffle ticket for 1976 snowmobile. I hope it runs!

  • The “richer” fair had mounted cops and periodic ATV patrols by the reflective vest club.
    • The “poorer” fair appeared to have no staff anywhere.
    • Crowds at both fairs were identically happy and very well behaved.
  • Both fairs had live music and it all sucked. Nobody minded.
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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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12 Responses to A Tale Of Two County Fairs: Part I: Compare And Contrast

  1. NEO says:

    Amazing how that always works

  2. Joe in PNG says:

    I’ve noticed that the desire to wear a brightly coloured vest and direct traffic seems to be a universal human desire. Even in PNG, people who have never driven a car in their lives will run at the opportunity to help wave you into oncoming traffic.

    • Bright yellow vests piss me off (unless they make sense… like standing in a highway). The kind of person who loves a reflective vest is precisely the kind of person who should stay home and leave the rest of us in peace.

      Stupid vests drove me out of certain search and rescue activities too. I was happy to put my time and effort and equipment to use to find a lost hiker or fish out a floundering boater… but the minute some tool with a clipboard “ordered” me to wear a freaking vest it was a different ball game. I was a “volunteer” not a “peasant”. Obviously they didn’t need my help and I was just more headcount to bulk up reporting paperwork.

  3. MaxDamage says:

    My Good Wife obtained a degree in zoology, or some such, with an emphasis in animal behavior. Or something like that. Anyway, she studied critters and how they do whatever it is they do.

    The kids continue to confound her, so I’m not certain she’s an expert or anything.

    Anyway, after we were married and she joined me in South Dakota we started attending farm auctions. Machinery, estates, those sorts of things. Redneck redistributing, she called it.

    At farmer auctions, parking is in a pasture. Pickups are parked in even rows and at precise distances. A farmer can place a 36′ long 8′ wide grain truck inside a 36′ 2″ long 8′ 1″ wide building and somehow actually exit the truck. This is evident at auctions. The rows are even, the distance between vehicles is precisely enough to allow the door to swing open but no more, everybody remembers where they parked.

    Auctions in the towns? Pure anarchy in parking. Most vehicles have no dirt on them and appear to have been abandoned in a random location in an empty lot.

    She has no idea why this is. My gut feeling is that without lane markers or garage walls city people just don’t know where to place their vehicles.

    – Max

  4. Eric Wilner says:

    A few years ago, I went to the Santa Clara County Fair for the first time in many years.
    Expensive parking.
    High entry fee, in addition to the parking.
    Checkpoints at the entrance to make sure no one was wearing certain colors of clothing, nor carrying knives of any description. (Yes, the guards were actually frisking everyone.) They were even worried about my pocket watch.
    Once inside… hardly any agriculture, not much in the way of fun, and in fact not much of anything.
    Money grubbing, rampant paranoia, and no fun: that’s life in Silicon Valley, California.

  5. MJR says:

    I read with interest your accounts of the two country fairs, one big and rich the other not so much. Two things that I did not see anywhere in the posts were the attendance of the fairs. (Note that typically small fairs attract small crowds.) You also do not write about what time of day you went to the two fairs. At any attraction, mornings are slow while afternoons tend to pick up and become busy.

    In the larger fair, they had people directing vehicles to where they could park but they did not at the smaller one. It looks like the smaller fair had little attendance so the issue of traffic control becomes moot. At the larger fair, there were folks who had safety vests on. Given the amount of traffic flow, I would suggest to you that it was for their safety.The vests are so that the drivers can see these people and come under the heading of Personal Protective Equipment. Large volumes of traffic tend to bog the flow down which causes hotheads to do strange things like cut people off and others to go into la la land chatting on cell phones etc. One of those persons dealing with traffic issues gets hit and then the lawsuits start plus charges for the organizers for failure to provide the PPE next year no fair. As to why they were there they direct traffic for two reasons, get as many cars in as quickly as can be safely done plus mitigate the inevitable complaints. Remember these things are not put on for fun they are to make money.

    You noted that the people in the vests were not smiling at you when you visited the large fair, I wonder if it could have been the fact that the employees were dealing with large amounts of visitors who tend to bitch, moan and complain more often than not. (How was your behavior towards them?) You go on to write about cops and security being on patrol at the big fair and how they were not needed, what you do not see are all the problems that they take care of like first aid, lost children, lost or stolen property, transports for the old and tired back to the parking lot or to the first aid station etc., etc.

    I am glad that you at least had a good time and I hope that you manage to win that gun and the snow machine.

    • You’ve got a lot of good ideas. In theory all would make sense and I’d agree. In practice it was the opposite of some of my expectations.

      The “rich” fair was in a bigger venue and had lots of cool stuff (demo derby!) but attendance wasn’t particularly large. The “poor” fair had less games and “events” but was bulked up by a zillion little old ladies exhibiting carrots and turning their grandkids loose to roam around. Over a week I’d suspect the “poor” fair brought in at least 80% of the “rich” attendance or maybe even eclipsed it. (The “poor” fair, having no “gates” might never know it’s attendance numbers.) Also: the “poor” fair was in a town so teenagers and some locals just walked there. The “rich” fair, like everything built in the last few decades, could only be reached by car.

      I went to the “poor” fair on a weekday evening… not a prime time. I went to the “rich” fair on a Saturday evening. I’d expect it to be peak time but it seemed pretty dead. Who knows why?

      I suspect the reason the “rich” fair had lots of “volunteers” is that “volunteers” work at the fair to get money. (Interesting how “volunteer” has a different meaning now than it once did.) If you and your friends at the Spittle Bug Appreciation Society “volunteer” at the fair you get money sent to your “Spittle Bug Rehabilitation Fund”. I’m not sure how high the funding goes… it almost felt like FEMA was air dropping cash… but I don’t really know that.

      I forgot to mention this but both venues had RV Trailer “Mobile Command Post” setups. One was with a non-profit emergency response organization and the other was the county Sheriff. I think “Command Posts” are no longer uncommon in America? The “poor” fair had the Sheriff RV and not much other indication of hierarchy. I think the “rich” fair had a Police office inside a permanent structure but I’m not sure.

      I’m not sure if fairs are put on to make money. From a strictly economic sense the optimal solution is to have no fair at all.

      I thought fairs were originally designed as a way for farmers to show off their agricultural products and maybe trade prize breeding stock. Genetics in 1913… buy the prize pig at the fair! Plus it’s a great idea for ladies (and men) to exhibit their cooking and canning prowess! (I’m sure some of this was trade in the early days before grocery stores. It would make sense.) I’m most impressed with the 4H kids who’ve raised all the bacon and stuff… we’re gonna’ need those bright kids when the zombie apocalypse happens and we’re fighting on street corners for the last Twinkie. (Just kidding; but seriously, how great is it that pre-teen farm kids are makin’ money AND BACON!)

      Last point, yeah I know the yellow vest is something we do as a litigation prophylactic. It’s not their fault they live in a society that dresses them like they’re in a blizzard on an Interstate at night when they’re “parking” cars going 2mph in a field. Also the yellow vest people could be pissed off because the peons were stupid and kept screwing up. Or maybe the peons were pissed off that they were paying cash to get bossed around by a herd of reflective mall ninjas. I was as polite and smiled a lot; almost as an experiment to see if any would smile back. Who knows what was going on. There’s no reason why organization has to be “folks in charge” and “peons”… that’s just a vibe I caught. Maybe it’s from the organizer/trainer? Maybe it was too hot? Maybe the “Spittle Bug Bug Appreciation Society” tends to be dour folk? Could be anything. I wouldn’t read too much into it, it’s not like they were hitting people with billy clubs.

    • If I win the gun and snow machine I’ll take it as a sign from above that I should start running a trap line. Man, wouldn’t that be cool!

      • davefreer says:

        Freezing cool 🙂 Meanwhile I have taken it as a sign from above that rain rusts rifles to stay inside and do some writing.

      • MJR says:

        I would like to apologize to you for the remarks that I posted on your blog under the entry ‘A Tale of Two County Fairs: Part I: Compare and Contrast.’ I broke one of the oldest rules that I have for posting things, never post when you are tired.

        I feel that I owe you an explanation as to my post.

        I work in the “Great White North” at a major attraction in Canada. My job is in the Safety & Security Branch and I have been doing this job for a long time. Yep at times I am one of those “dour” people in the vests who direct folks into parking spots. During that time I have worked at the attraction, I have actually received several customer service awards. In fact, I do have many laughs doing it and I smile/chat a lot of the time with visitors.

        BTW, I only wear the damn vests because I’m ordered to.

        Personally, like your blog says, there are times I would rather deal with a tractor then some of the people who come through the gates. When doing the parking lot I’m asked “Is the main parking lot full?” by drivers who stop in the middle of the city intersection on green lights 3 or 4 times an hour. Note there are at least 3 large signs pointing in the direction of the over flow lot and there is a barricade blocking the entrance to the main lot with 1 foot high letters saying lot full proceed to overflow lot. Like that, comic says… Here’s your sign.

        Here are a few examples of what I deal with…

        Regarding parking… I agree with you that a person trying to park a car would have little difficulty in finding a parking spot and parking in a paved lot. For me directing drivers is a pain in the butt. Last year during the summer, several times the lots (we have 4) were left unsupervised with nobody directing cars. Drivers were left to act as adults and park with no guidance as an experiment (because management was looking to reduce the number of seasonal employees). In each test, the wait times were over an hour in lineups for cars to get off the road, enter through the gates and find a parking spot. This was due to folks wanting to find the perfect spot. Drivers would circle around, go against the traffic flow, cut in front of other cars, and when the spot is found (with long lines behind them), some would back into a spot in a haphazard way while other drivers would block in other people’s cars or buses. The amount of written complaints was horrendous.

        Then there are the silly ones… A while ago on day shift I had to deal with a very pissed off individual who had driven his electric scooter into the splash pad while looking for his kids. He stopped to look around and, while looking, a fountainhead under his scooter went off soaking the electronics and ruining the scooter. I had to attend and assist the fellow. He was pissed that there were no warning signs saying that electric scooter drivers be aware that the area had working fountains. Note he sued for damages and lost.

        On my last day shift, there was the grandmother who wanted the perfect video of here 10 year old grandson. She had him climb some rocks and, at 10 feet, he fell doing a belly flop on pavement. As the first person on scene, I requested a nurse and an ambulance. The grandmother said she didn’t want the ambulance because she didn’t want to pay for it ($40.00 is charged if not an emergency and this was) The kid had all the signs of an internal bleed going on. To get her to agree I finally had to threaten calling the cops and having a criminal charge laid under the criminal code for negligence regarding the child. BTW, you have no idea how much I hate to have the police attend, it is a major pain adding considerably to my paperwork. When the ambulance arrived, the attendant asked what happened and the grandmother was very happy to show him the video.

        Later that day there was an autistic man of 28 with the mind of a 10 year old who was a flight risk. He even had a collar with a leash to keep him from running. The group was taking photos so they took his leash off. When his keeper turned her back for a second and he was gone. This happened a little after 3 in the afternoon and he was not found until 11:30 that night off site. Involved were all the security, many staff that stayed to look and didn’t get paid for their time, the police mounted unit, the police k-9 unit and a helicopter.

        I could go on but I don’t want to bore you too much. Suffice to say at the larger venues the command post is needed as is the security and first aid staff (police and armature volunteers, not so much). It sounds like at the two fairs they were staffed by armatures who were volunteers and wannabe cops. I hate armatures because they have no real training in the areas where they are working and tend to see things in black or white. As for the mall ninjas I hate them too because they are simply frustrated wannabe cops who didn’t make the grade.

        Oh and one last thing the fairs, unless subsidized by government, make money to cover their costs with a little extra for the organizers. That’s why they use unpaid volunteers. Don’t believe me simply follow the trail and you will see. Like Heinlein wrote TANSTAAFL.

        MJR

        PS Did you win?

      • Did I win? Oh… the rifles and snowmobiles aren’t drawn for months. They sell tickets at many venues. (Like the local gas station.)

        I buy the tickets to support charity and as my personal vote for a society where rifles and old sleds are bought with private money and given out to willing ticket buyers. Better to bask in the glow of a lovingly rebuilt old Skiddo than wilt in the mire of Federal Obamaphones. From that point of view I “won” by having the chance to buy a ticket.

  6. MJR says:

    Dang, I thought that the two draws would have been done at the end of the fairs. I hope that you do win and get to run a trap line or two. It would be cool reading about your adventures. Yes, I know that I should not live vicariously through others.

    Like you, I support various causes and consider it to be rubbing freedom in the noses of politically correct do-gooder crowd. For me it is the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters plus the National Firearms Association. Good on you for your support.

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