Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Different Fair

We arrived at noon to find that our favorite lot was full (should have known better) and ended up parking miles way on a side street near a church parking lot that had a shuttle service, thus saving $11 and getting to know an entirely new neighborhood. On our way back to the fairgrounds on the bus we passed the campus of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, which I’d never noticed before. (It might be worth a return visit.)

Quite a few people had arrived at the fairgrounds ahead of us, making it more difficult to see things. We cut through a very long line extending out into the street from the open doors of the education building, and I asked someone what all the fuss was about. Channeling with Elvis? A free foot massage, perhaps? “They’re giving out free bags at the St. Thomas booth,” the man told me. Hmmm.

As usual, the art show offered a diverse collection of wacky renderings of dilapidated cars, artily composed black-and-white nature photographs, laboriously executed pencil portraits of disgruntled teenagers, and “concept” works making use of toothpicks, bees wax, or tin foil. It seems that collages made from glossy magazine illustrations are now passé, and pastel dream-drawings with fantasy animals in them are definitely a thing of the past.

I took snapshots of five works of art, of which four were photographs of one kind or another. The one below depicts a young woman ripping apart a stuffed rabbit and fashioning an Easter hat out of it.

One advantage of arriving at the fair at noon is that more bands are playing. We missed country western star Gwen Sebastian and Breakaway, but caught a few tunes by the Creole Cowboy Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie. All the songs sounded the same but there were lots of people dancing in front of the stage, which was fun to watch. We later wandered into the International Bazaar, where vendors have gathered together all the worst gimcrackery from around the world into a single courtyard, and listened to the Sisters of Swing, who had an interesting dance routine worked up themselves.

It was hard to look at the wool sweaters in the craft building with any degree of attention, what with the temperature above ninety, but there were some splendid quilts on display. We stared at the ethnic cookies for a while, and amid the seed-art I spotted a well-done portrait of someone I actually know! (His wife hails from rural Iowa. Her dad once drove her to a party on his tractor.)

In the dairy building I chatted with a representative of the Mississippi River National Riverway who tried to convince me (unsuccessfully) that the Riverway is actually a national park. In a booth in the next aisle we got the latest update on pheasant populations. (The count isn't in, but things aren’t looking good, I’m afraid.) But there was a steady stream of acrid smoke blowing into the building from a gyro stand out on the street, and we felt it imperative to cut short the discussion of the Conservation Reserve Program and get on out of there, pronto.

We ate some greasy smelt in the food building across the street, watched the young couples emerge from the Haunted House, dazed and laughing, and returned to the bus stop, four hours after we'd arrived, without having seen a single barnyard animal. That's the way it goes, sometimes. A little too hot and crowded, and I began to gain some insight into why some people simply don't like to go to the fair.

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