Thursday, September 01, 2005

DIY Freak Show

Immodest Carrot
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I’m not sure whether to give a “not work-safe” warning or not, so consider yourself warned if you want to click to (further) enlarge this well-endowed carrot. Can you believe it didn’t get the blue ribbon in the “Vegetable Oddities” category at the Oregon State Fair? They awarded the blue ribbon to this snake gourd, which, while impressive in length, just doesn’t capture the imagination the way that carrot does.

As I mentioned a few days ago, fairs no longer officially sanction freak shows, but there’s still plenty of freakiness to be found if you know where to look. The Exhibition Hall, home of the hot-to-trot carrot and the snake gourd, is a cornucopia of bizarre exhibits. The Oregon Veterinary Association’s exhibit was one of the most enigmatic. The exibit was unstaffed so there was no one to explain the hodge podge of items they'd assembled. It looked like they simply dumped the contents of some old storage room out on a couple of tables. Among the curiosities were an X-ray of a snake that had swallowed a heating pad and an ancient and rusted cow speculum about the size and shape of a magnum of champagne. (Formidable.) For some reason, though, this feline nervous system sandwiched between two pieces of glass creeped me out more than anything. Those wonky baby-blue eyeballs give me the willies!

Feline Nervous System

Sadly (and inexplicably) I did not photograph the army of scarecrows; the elaborate kingdoms made of Legos; the collection of handmade nun and priest dolls that represented every holy order that ever staked its claim in Eugene, Oregon; or the wall of poetry entries. (Who knew you could enter poetry at the state fair?) I did, however, document the pies and cakes. I hate to say it, but the caliber of the entries was appallingly low. Look at this lopsided, dented, poorly frosted chocolate cake.

Sorry Cake

I mean, I know that things don’t always turn out as one had hoped, but if I’d made that sorry-looking cake, I wouldn’t have bothered to schlep it to the fair. Then again, maybe this person knew what kind of competition she was up against because that cake won a third-place ribbon! Perhaps its merits lay in its taste and not its appearance. But the pies weren’t much better. NB: Jamie, I think you’d have no problem blowing the competition right out of the water.

Despite the less-than-stellar appearance of all those baked goods, I do think it would be great if fair-goers were allowed to sample the entries. Instead we are forced to actually buy food. Fortunately, there is plenty available—about 85 percent of it deep-fried. One stall sells nothing but deep-fried stuff: deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried Snickers, deep-fried Oreos, and deep-fried Rocky Road bars. I love their motto: “It’s New! It’s Great!”—which is remarkable for the utter lack of creative thought put into it and the brazen lack of truthfulness. Their stall is not new—they were peddling the exact same stuff last year (perhaps literally). (Read my eye-witness report here.) As to whether a deep-fried Snickers or a deep-fried Oreo is “great,” I’d be willing to wager that they aren't. I didn’t see anyone buy any of them, and if there’s one thing that people at fairs do, it’s buy fried food. Those things must have been extremely nasty.

So that’s the end of the freak show. The rest of the stuff we did was wholesome, with a freak factor of virtually nil. Here’s a quick rundown of recommended fair offerings if anyone’s planning on going over the weekend (it runs through Labor Day):

  • The Peking Acrobats (Astounding. Don’t miss them.)
  • Hypnomania (I am unhypnotizable, as you would expect, but the show is good fun.)
  • Pepe and the Bottle Blondes (A Cuban band led by an entertaining goofball.)
  • The petting zoo (Where else can you see a baby kangaroo and an alpaca standing side by side?)
  • The Mount Hood burger (Apparently, the slice of pastrami they slap on it is what makes it a Mount Hood burger. Don’t ask me why. Excellent fries come with it.)
  • All the animal barns (especially the Romney sheep)
  • Umpqua ice cream

Avoid Like the Plague
  • Shenaniguns (Awful, awful western gunslinger “comedy” duo. Tired, tired jokes and excruciating puns.)
  • Cow patties (They’re everywhere!)
  • E. coli (Wash your hands if you touch any of the animals.)
  • Stalls hawking cell phones, vegetable slicer/dicers, hot tubs, wood-burning stoves, socks, leather goods, twirly things, sunglasses, etc., etc., etc.
  • Dippin' Dots (Flavorless, ersatz ice-cream BBs.)


Oink, oink!


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