I do love the State Fair, despite (or myabe in spite of) how similar the Fair is every year, while changing just enough to keep it interesting. I didn't do anything differently than I have at previous Fairs, but I had just as good of a time as ever.
My-Sugar-Na and I headed to the Fair this morning, with the bright idea that leaving at 9:00 AM would allow us to go to the old neighborhood for a spot on the street. As we turned left from 84th onto Orchard, we were struck by the sight of our old neighbors already parking cars! This was unheard of in the olden days. Even on Sundays where large crowds were expected, we wouldn't start stirring until about Noon.
The new owners of our house? Sheesh. Passing on a gold mine. (Side note; when we were packing last fall, I made sure we left the "Parking" sign and the flags behind. I remember right where I left them. I almost felt the urge to go get them and get to work.)
We did find a street spot on 87th & Lapham, and began our trek into the Fair. Breakfast was had at the West Allis Shrine Club stand inside the Cream Puff Pavillion. In past trips, we didn't like the Machine Shed pancakes or the Starlite's French toast, but the Shriners make a mean waffle and grilled cheese sandwich (two separate items, people. Though, a Grilled Cheese Waffle on a Stick gives me an idea....)
The waffles were made fresh for us (so we did have to wait a few minutes) and mine was topped with strawberries and whipped cream. The grilled cheese was just as good, made with Texas Toast slices and three slices of cheddar cheese and cooked to perfection on a Panini maker. The two waffles, sandwich and two 20 oz bottles of soda came to $18... a very reasonable price for breakfast for two.
And who are we kidding? Being right there, throw in a shared cream puff for $4.
We also walked around a bit, and were stunned (a recurring theme) with how crowded the grounds were at 10:00 AM. Seems like everybody decided a morning of 72 degrees with no humidity would be a great day to Fairgo (which is what I believe Fairgoers do).
After the 10:30 AM pig races (Side note; have the pig races reached their expiration date? I have sat through them every year since Bowler's Pro Shop's Official Son, Mitten, was that tall. There have been various operators of the races, and in the past, there have been geese races, pigs swimming the last lap and a Nascar bend - each race had a "Squealin' Tony Stewaahrt". But this year? A big guy on the microphone speaking in a distorted and unintelligible dialect, only three races, and where the heck were the Oreo cookies for the winners? The whole set up this year seemed cheap and rushed through) we walked through some barns and noticed that there was an 11:00 AM event in the Collesium.
That event was the Horse Pull competition (the Lightweights, total weight of the two-horse team under 3000#). You know the cool part? A woman sang the National Anthem, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a woman can sing it without giving the impression that she is staring into Chris Colfer's dreamy, dreamy eyes.
We watched each of the 12 teams successfully pull their first load of 2700# and a 1952 truck when us non-farmers decided to move along. A few more barns full of cows and sheep (and strollers, strollers, strollers) and My-Sugar-Na decided to call it a day (we have lots more tickets and are already going back on Tuesday, so she was fine with only a couple of hours). But not before stopping at the Pork Shoppe for a $6 pork chop sandwich that she described as "better than you can make. They are professionals", she said. "They live and breathe grilling pork".
I took my admonishment in stride, and headed for the El Jefe stand for a $3.50 Mexican Corn (corn on the cob, slathered in mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper) which is better than any corn my wife has ever made (her not being a professional corn chef, either. Pffft.) We were about to leave when My-Sugar-Na ran into a co-worker who told her that she was saving a walkthrough the Expo Center for last... which gave my wife that same idea.
Inside Strollerfest (and really... look through the lens of a 3-year old strapped into a stroller in the super-crowded Expo Center. All you see are the cellulite-ridden knees of thousands of people who aren't your parent's because they are pushing you into everyone else's ankles. But I digress...) purchase my wife's yearly Pomeranian-related crap for her car from the dog stuff booth, then head out.
Walking the wrong way out of the Fairgrounds back to our car a little after Noon, we were noticing the crowd get bigger and bigger. They just kept piling in. This has got to be a near-record attendance day, however we may never know because of the Sikh temple shooting that dominated the Local Bleeding Heart of Scare People Needlessly Entertainment Program (Side note; news really shouldn't happen on a Sunday. The fourth-rate reporters that each of the four stations had on-site in Oak Creek were really in over their heads. The babbling while try to fill air time by repeating that we don't know anything more was embarassing.)
It was time to trade a wife for a daughter, so the plan was to have My-Sugar-Na pick-up Bowler's Pro Shop's Official Daughter, Gooey from the Devil Incarnate's house (Joe, if you want my name and kids, you get the ex-wife, too) in the Washington Park area. We took National Ave. east, and we were again taken back by the line of cars trying to turn right onto Greenfield Ave. Oh, to be able to park cars today...
Having lived in this area for more than the past two days, we took the secret, traffic free route back to the Fairground, my wife wished Gooey and I well, and we headed back in.
What's a good father/daughter first stop? Right. Lefty's Milk Barn. Seemed appropo that the line for the milk stretched back to the Port-a-Johns. The line took 15 minutes to get to the front, so I spent the extra quarter to get THREE milks for myself. Two cherry-vanilla and one root beer later, I can rest easy in the knowledge that I have 50% more milk in my system this year than last year, so my teeth and bones should be EXTRA strong.
But beyond that, the time with Gooey was spent walking in two-inch incraments (except, of course, when I did my Paul Ott Carruth impression, creating a hole for Michael Haddix). We also went through some of the barns (catching them before they closed for the animal swap), tried to go through the Wisconsin Products Pavillion, and just kind of walked aimlessly south. Neither of us said much, but there were just too many people to negotiate to try to have "fun". She is 14, so we weren't going to sit in a bar area, but she is too old for the kids stuff, and I know I wasn't going to go on any rides.
We stopped for a shaken lemonade ($3.50) and
a $6 funnel cake, and found the only seating in the shade that was available on the entire grounds. Upon consumption (Side note; when finished, don't make the paper plate into a cone and pour the powder sugar into your mouth. Talk about teeth vibrations...) we headed home. There were at least as many people arriving at 3:00 PM as there were at Noon when I left the first time.
For as much as I had wanted to, this just wasn't a great day for a dad to profess his love to his growing daughter. So I did the next best thing... told her to come back another day with a friend and actually have fun. She smiled that knowing smile, and will likely take me up on that offer. Two more tickets now spoken for.