My family didn’t travel much, so my brothers and sisters and I spent our summers dressing up goats in doll dresses, locking each other in the chicken barn and waiting impatiently for the fair.
Seriously, the fair was like Disneyland and Disney World and Christmas all rolled up into one. And then deep-fried and sprinkled with powder sugar. Because that’s how fairs work, you guys.As an adult, I still love summer fairs and festivals.
Or, more accurately, I love the idea of summer fairs and festivals.
But the truth is that I’m a total crankypants.
I hate crowds. I can’t stand screaming children. I sunburn too easily. Rides make me queasy. And I have a bladder roughly the same size as a garbanzo bean.
When I go to fairs and festivals, I experience a battle between my inner child who loves everything and wants to eat ALL THE FOOD RIGHT NOW and my outer middle-aged crankster who wants everyone to shut up and GET OFF MY LAWN ALREADY. (And also really needs to find a bathroom that is not a Porta-Potty.)
Luckily, I’ve discovered a few tips to get me through even the loudest, hottest, screamiest, summer fair or festival without killing anyone.
The Crankster’s Guide to Surviving Summer Fairs & Festivals
Tip #1: Arrive prepared.
(My cat is not actually included in this kit. She just thinks that every time I take a photo, I must want to take a photo of her. She is only 99% accurate on this matter.)
My kit consists of a hat and sunglasses to simultaneously keep me from passing out from the sun and prevent people from seeing me give their screamy kids the side-eye.
There’s antibacterial gel, wet wipes, and tissues because sometimes Porta-potties happen. No matter how hard I try to avoid them.
There’s aspirin (see: screamy kids) and sunblock (see: sunburn too easily) and antacid (see: deep-fried Reese’s cups).
And I always carry a water bottle because eight-dollar-plastic-cup-of-lemonade-that-is-mostly-ice? I’m not about that life. No matter how reusable the cup is.
Tip #2: Find a safe place. And by “safe” I mean “not so screamy.”
I don’t know how I forget this little fact until I’m suddenly surrounded by three hundred of them.
I suspect I have that amnesia where you can’t remember what a horrible, antisocial person you are. That’s a thing, right?
In order to prevent myself from going bonkers and punching everyone in the face, I quickly find the least popular tent, exhibition space or animal barn and stay there for a while.
Last weekend, when I went to the Ionia Free Fair, I discovered a building called the “Antique Village.”
It was neither a village nor particularly antique, but it was perfect for my purposes as it was relatively uncrowded.
Probably because it housed exhibits like this one:
And this one:
There was also an exhibit of the fair’s original mascot, Biffy the Pig. This could be another reason why hardly anyone was in the building, as I’m pretty sure this demonic clown-pig ate them all.
Tip #3: Have a purpose.
It’s easier to do if you have an end-goal in mind.
That way instead of focusing on how much you hate everyone, you can focus on the job you need to do.
This will, hopefully, prevent you from pushing your fellow festival-goers into tractors.
Unless your end-goal is to push all your fellow festival-goers into tractors. And, if that’s the case, it’s possible you’re an even bigger crankypants than me.
And, not to brag or anything, but I did a pretty good job.
I started with the cherry pancakes:
And moved on to the cherry bratwurst:
And then finished things off with some cherry pie:
Mind you, I totally forgot to eat any actual cherries that weren’t surrounded by pancakes or pie crust or pork.
But who goes to a fruit festival to eat fruit?
That would just be weird.
Tip #4: Two words: beer tent.cherry pie beer I had read about.
IT’S BEER MADE WITH CHERRY PIES, YOU GUYS. That sounds like a concoction of the gods, I tell you.
You may find this a bit shocking, but I’d never actually been in a festival or fair beer tent until then.
Actually, I find this kind of shocking, too.
I mean, WHO AM I?
Sadly, when I arrived at the tent, I was told the cherry pie beer was not on tap, so I had to order a different beer which wasn’t even cherry-flavored.
I would have been disappointed. But it was still beer.
And then I discovered something called a Michigan Cherry Margarita. Which I had to try. Because RESEARCH.
As I sipped my drink, I realized something: even though I was tired and hot and surrounded by fifty kabillion people and my only toilet option was a Porta-Potty, I didn’t want to punch anyone in the face anymore.
Instead, I was filled with a feeling of camaraderie and good will.
Or maybe it was just a feeling of tequila.
Either way, it totally worked.
Tip #5: Get out while the getting’s good. Or, at least, before you punch anyone.
There’s usually a point three or four hours into my festival or fair-going that I realize I need to leave RIGHT NOW.
Of course, the inner child in me still wants to stay forever and ever and probably become a carnie when she grows up.
But I know I have to get out or my head will explode and I will start pushing people into tractors if they don’t watch it.
So I leave.
Even if that means I have to miss the Cherry Pit Spit Contest while at the National Cherry Festival. Which is something I’m still kind of kicking myself for because IT’S A CONTEST FOR CHERRY PIT SPITTING! When am I ever going to have a chance to see something like that again?
I also had to leave before the 4H Rabbit and Cavy Show at the Ionia Free Fair. Which means I may never find out what a cavy is.
Although, if a cavy is anything like Biffy the demonic clown-pig, I think I’m okay with never finding out.Are you a lover or hater of summer fairs and festivals? And how do you survive the crowds without pushing people into tractors?