Monday, September 21, 2009

I Paid Three Dollars Per Painted Cheek

The Queens County Fair happens at the end of every summer in the sleepy little village of Gagetown. I've been many times over the years, but this less-than-merry go round had convinced me that I'd rather take a puck to the chin than ever return.

I've had a love/hate relationship with carnivals for years, and it all started with the Fredericton Exhibition (FREX). I used to love going to the FREX. I didn't love it enough to pay the price of admission, so I'd slink under a fence behind some trailers, with my delinquint buddies, undoubtedly crawling through carnie pee and/or horse excrement. Five dollars saved, dignity and jeans only marginally soiled.

Once safely inside I would visit the vomit inducing ride called The Zipper. I never went on The Zipper, I just stood below it, dodging flying pogo dog chunks to gather up the quarters that rained out of people's pockets as they turned and churned inside their whirling cages. It was a great way to earn a little spare change, though it was not without its dangers. The carnie, being an opportunist like me, would foot race me to the pennies (and quarters) falling from heaven. He got what landed within the secured drop zone, I got what landed on the outside. You'd be amazed at the distance a quarter can travel when catapulted from thirty feet above.

I'm not sure if the FREX was the beginning of my life as an entrepreneur, or scheister, likely both. What I saved on admission, and harvested under The Zipper, was no doubt later handed over to some lobster clawed carnie. I'm not joking when I say that. One of my most enduring childhood memories was of a crusty carnie with three fingers on one hand (the claw), and two on the other (the pincer). I nicknamed him 'the lobster', and I charted a generous arc around him whenever our paths crossed. I never did learn what happened to his fingers, though I suspect he tried to oil the Tilt-A-Whirl when it was moving. Of course that's unlikely, since we all know that carnies never do anything to maintain the rides. Even in quiet and quaint Gagetown, where nothing bad ever happened until the ferry godfather got elected, I half expected the Ferris wheel to roll past me, down the hill and into the creek. Wishful thinking, at least from a photographer's perspective.

Let's see...shall I photograph the horse's tattooed arse, or perhaps that runaway wheel of misfortune.

Rarely in my life have I ever felt so out of place as I did at the fair yesterday. I was Mork from Ork, walking around a dusty and dirty fairground with aliens who had emerged from square eggs, most likely born in a Walmart parking lot. I could easily see the humour in my predicament, and perhaps I should have wallowed in it a tad longer, but I wanted nothing more than to get out of town and return to Ork.

I'm not sure why I felt so detached from my Queens County cousins but I think having just returned from les Iles de la Madeleine had a lot to do with it. I had just spent ten glorious days walking barefoot in drifting sands. The air was crisp and salty, every day. My eyes were never landlocked or shackled. Now I found myself staring at the dusty backside of Equus Seabiscutus, wondering if I could get my $6 admission fee returned.

The Queens County Fair is immensely popular and well received. They must be doing something right because 64 years later it's still going strong. I guess I just don't get off on looking at plates of raw string beans, neatly spooned together, each vying to win a first prize ribbon.

Honestly, I couldn't care less that someone could grow a dozen blemish free beans. Call me jaded.


I saw neatly cropped beets, groomed to perfection, awaiting my admiring glance. There were reams of baked goods sitting on display, sweating in plastic bags and housed in a snack-proof Plexiglass prison. I can only imagine how proud Eunice Hanselporker was when her oatmeal/raisin/sorghum cookies took first place in the oatmeal/raisin/sorghum category. I hope she wasn't too devastated that her oatmeal/cow chip/alfalfa cookies didn't fair so well, losing to Edna Snickerbutt's perfectly baked biscuits.

I'm glad that so many people are excited and inspired by the fair, I just can't seem to rally my own troops enough to care anymore. I guess that I choose to celebrate our agricultural heritage in a different way. The hundred mile diet is my contribution to the well being and continuity of our farm community. I do it more or less alone, and that suits me just fine.

The real beauty of the Queens County Fair is it's bringing together of like minded neighbours who wish to do some carefree socializing. Oddly enough, or perhaps not so, I hardly recognized anyone there, least of all myself.

This is the final call for flight 242 to Ork...all passengers not yet on board should approach the gate.

I've got to go!

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