Wednesday, November 11, 2009

North Florida Fair

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was about going to a state fair. That was over five years ago, and until today, I had not been to a state fair since. But, not that long ago, Melanie and I noticed a billboard for the North Florida Fair, taking place through this upcoming weekend. We figured that sounded like a good family activity, so we decided we’d find out where those North Florida Fairgrounds were (hopefully no more than an hour away) and make a day of it. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the North Florida Fairgrounds are just a few blocks from my school! Ha ha! For some reason, the general-sounding “North Florida” in the title made me think they might be out of town somewhere. So, all in all, we only made a half day of it. But it wiped us out, especially Eddie and Peter. And now I’ll chronicle it for you, largely in pictures.

Eddie didn’t even know what a fair was, up until a couple of days ago. But as soon as we told him about it, he’s been very eager to go on some rides. Outside of some very dinky rides at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and maybe a coin-operated train or two at the mall or Toys R Us, Eddie hasn’t been on any rides. Certainly nothing of amusement park ride proportions, even of the kiddie variety. Eddie’s enthusiasm about going on rides continued when we arrived at the fairgrounds. As soon as we were through the gate, he was wanting to go on something. We made the poor kid walk around a bit, and even stop and look at goats and cows, before letting him try something. His first ride—an airplane. He loves airplanes in general, and he loved riding in one solo. It was so great to see him loving it so much. I’m glad he isn’t taking too much after his parents and wasn’t too nervous to enjoy himself!

Pilot Edison K makes a successful landing.

Before we even drove to the fairgrounds, Eddie was informing me of what kinds of rides the fair would offer. He told me about one that makes you go upside down. He asked if I was going to go on that one when we got to the fair. I told him I might be too nervous to go on a ride that goes upside down. He lovingly assured me, “Don’t worry. I’ll be next to you.”

The next ride Edison chose was a “train” ride—a kid-friendly, caterpillar-themed roller coaster. We informed Eddie that it was a roller coaster, but he was determined to go on it. Once again, he proved a very brave little fellow, and he never seemed the slightest bit scared during the ride. He enjoyed himself just as much as he did on the airplane. In fact, Melanie, who rode with him, said that he kept up with the idea of it being a simple train ride the whole time. Apparently he kept calling out, “Choo choo!”

A very cool photo taken by Melanie.

It was time for a snack. We made Eddie stop riding rides for a few minutes, and we found ourselves some overpriced fair food. Eddie and Peter shared a soft pretzel, while Melanie and I shared some fried zucchini. It was yummy, and something we haven’t seen outside of Utah, where you can get it at numerous Mom & Pop-type burger stands. We all split a $6 fresh-squeezed lemonade, which seemed to amount to a cup of water with half a lemon dropped in it. That’s what it looked like, and that’s how it tasted.

Once we had eaten, it was off to the rides again. Edison had been intimidated by the large Ferris wheel located at one end of the fairgrounds, but he agreed to go on a slightly smaller version with me. (It didn’t feature gondola seating, so we couldn’t have all gone together. And Peter couldn’t have ridden on it, I’m fairly certain.) It was fun to be on a ride with him, and he had a great time. The only drawback seemed to be that he was quite cold by this point. It was in the mid-60s all day, and though we dressed in long-sleeve shirts and long pants, we didn’t bring jackets. We should have done so for the kids.

When “wheeee!” turns to “awwww!”

Edison was allowed to choose one more ride before we ventured back toward the middle of the fairgrounds for a restroom break and yet another snack. He chose the fire trucks, and though his parents were heartbroken that he ended up in a fire truck without a cord for ringing its bell (unlike the other fire trucks), Eddie himself didn’t seem to mind. He gleefully turned the steering wheel this way and that, and pretended to ring the bell, as happy as a clam the whole time, as attested to by the tongue that was constantly dangling out of his mouth.

After using the restroom, we stopped for a moment at the swine races. It had nothing to do with fair patrons racing to get a flu vaccine or anything like that. The event consisted of actual pigs being forced to race for the entertainment of the crowd. Eddie and Peter enjoyed it for a moment, but the races were extremely short and took a minute or two of prep time between each. One race was enough for us. It was then time for us to try something I had heard rumors of, but that I have never before had the chance to try…

deep-fried Twinkies. I was surprised by the familiarity of their taste. I’ve never tried one, but as Melanie pointed out, they tasted quite a bit like a scone, and the Twinkie-ness of them was largely lost. (The cream filling was not noticeable, as it had melted due to the Twinkies’ being fried.) A short while later, I realized they tasted quite a bit like loukoumades, if you’ve ever had those. (If you haven’t, they’re Greek and are basically fried donut holes.) In the end, I quite enjoyed the Twinkies and was surprised they weren’t weirder. Although next year, Melanie and I want to try to the deep-fried Oreos. (Yes, that’s for real.)

The interior of a deep-fried Twinkie. Nothing too suspicious. Proceed to test feeding.

Test subject #1—no signs of heart attack upon eating. Proceed to test subject #2.

Test subject #2—still no sign of imminent danger brought on by the consuming of deep-fried Hostess products. Proceed to test subject #3.

Test subject #3—looking happy, but not bizarrely happy. Outlook good. Safe to eat.

Sugar seemed to lift everyone’s spirits, so it was back to the rides for one grand finale. Edison chose the classic carousel. I took a turn with Edison, and because they didn’t make me use any tickets to be Eddie’s chaperon, Melanie was able to take Peter on his first and only ride of the day. (He’d been a bit fussy before then, or we would have taken him on a ride before then.) Because the carousel was one of maybe two or three rides that Peter could go on, with an adult even, Melanie took him on that. He really enjoyed himself too, which was fun. I wasn’t sure how much he’d care. But he was quite the smiling one.

After that, we briefly stopped to watch some motorcycles being driven around inside a spherical metal cage, doing loops, nearly killing the woman standing in the middle of the interior of the cage, etc. It was pretty cool, but it was time for us to get out of there. A lot of fun, but enough for one day.

So that’s it. It was somewhat interesting going to a fair outside of Utah. I don’t know if it’s because Tallahassee is small, or if it’s just because we went on a weekday (although it is Veteran’s Day and many people had the day off), but the fair was delightfully uncrowded. We didn’t even have to pay for parking, and we basically parked right at the gate in the parking lot for the fairgrounds themselves. It was no problem at all. Small towns have their perks! The weather may also have deterred people somewhat. It was on the cooler side, somewhat windy and almost drizzly for a minute or two here and there. Worked out beautifully for us.

The end.