Yes, I did! I jumped at the chance to go to any fair when I was a child. There was the annual fair on the back lot of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (“OLPH”), my grade school, the Maricopa County Fair, and the Arizona State Fair. Your dad, Uncle Brian, Aunt Margie, Aunt Sarah, and I went to all of those.
I remember very little about those fairs, except that at the OLPH fair, we could win real live goldfish and bring them home in sandwich bags full of water; and that the Arizona State Fair rides were higher and more exciting than the Maricopa County Fair ones, or maybe it just felt that way to me at the time.
SAN MATEO COUNTY FAIR
Since I don’t remember too much about the fairs I visited as a child, I’ll tell you about one I have been to a few times as an adult. It’s the San Mateo County Fair, which takes place every year a half hour from my house.
Four years ago, a writer friend told me that the San Mateo County Fair has a literary contest, with winners earning two free tickets to the fair and the chance to speak on the fair’s literary stage. I knew I could win a writing contest and thought it would be fun to win a free trip to the fairgrounds.
In 2014, my first year entering, I won first place in my category and received the ribbon below.
I invited my friend Anne, who writes children’s books, to join me at the fair using my second free ticket. We ran into this bear:
We rode on a super high ride that took us all the way up, then dropped us down fast. See?
We saw a juggler on stilts who made funny faces.
We saw a two-person musical group, one member of which played an instrument that looked like a zydeco rubboard, and another who played the ukulele on stilts.
We even watched a pie-eating contest!
We got to see goats, pigs, and sheep.
Then, in the afternoon, it was time for me to speak on the literary stage, where I read my winning essay and answered audience questions about writing.
In 2015, a different essay I entered at the fair won first place in the essay contest again, and also Best of Show, meaning the judges liked it best out of all entries in all categories. I won my two tickets and invited Anne again.
I wore a t-shirt that reads: “Soul is waterproof: 504,” a reference to New Orleans because New Orleans gets a lot of hurricanes and water, and the area code for New Orleans is 504. So when Anne and I saw a new fair attraction that year that was a fake house decorated for Mardi Gras, we had to take a picture in front of it.
I know you know all about Mardi Gras because you were just in New Orleans for it, like I was last year. When I called Maggie on her birthday, she told me you and Kenzie had walked down the streets picking up beads during your trip. Don’t you just love Mardi Gras beads? They are the best. Anyway, here is a photo of Anne and me in front of the Mardi Gras house at the fair.
Anne and I rode the Ferris Wheel together. Here is a photo of the Ferris Wheel, then one of the view from the top.
Then I went by myself on a ride called “Freak Out,” which I’d waited all year to ride because the year before, I was wearing flip-flops, and learned you couldn’t ride Freak Out without shoes … and this ride goes almost upside down and whips around really fast, so there was no way my flip-flops wouldn’t have gone flying over the fairgrounds.
With my more sensible shoes the second year, I rode Freak Out while Anne, who can’t stand scary rides, took photos. Here is the ride with me somewhere on it:
Then we saw someone riding a mechanical bull …
… and a group of people doing fancy gymnastics way up high, like Eliza can do!
That year, even though I was invited to speak on the literary stage, I decided against it because I just wanted to have fun looking around at the fair.
In 2016, I entered again, this time winning only third place.
This still earned me two free tickets, since anyone placing in the top three spots in their category could go to the fair for free and bring someone. I had already told Anne the year before that she would have the right of first refusal for my second fairground ticket for every year I won tickets. She joined me again.
That year, the stilts-and-zydeco act was back. This time I took a couple videos:
And we went on this fun ride:
And guess what? Another pie-eating contest!
FAIRGROUNDS IN SAN DIEGO
More recently, of course, I’ve been to fairgrounds with you … in San Diego! Remember when you won that giant plastic hammer, and Kenzie won an inflatable Emoji, and you two had a hammer/Emoji battle?
Well, here’s a cute picture of you, Kenzie, and Eliza with your fairground loot.
THE FAIR AND YOU
What about you, Patrick? What’s the most recent fair you’ve been to? Are you excited to go to the carnival in San Diego this year? It’s less than five months away!