The Crankypant’s Guide to Surviving Summer Fairs & Festivals

July 24, 2014


When I was a kid, the county fair was EVERYTHING.


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.

Deep-fried Reese cups. Because that's a thing that exists at fairs. And heaven.

Deep-fried Reese cups. Because that’s a thing that exists at fairs. And heaven.

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.


This is a photo of what I like to call my festival survival kit.

(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.”


Shortly after arriving at most summer fairs or festivals, I remember the fact that I actually hate all people.

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:


The ever mysterious Vegetable Slicer/Peeler?

And this one:


Oooo! Sprayers and dusters!

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.


Don’t look him in the eyes or he will EAT YOUR SOUL!!!

Tip #3: Have a purpose.


Surviving a fair or festival is like running a race or doing any other horrible thing that you tell yourself is going to be “fun.”

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.


When I went to the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City the other week, I had a clear purpose before I even showed up: namely, to eat as many cherry-based meals as possible.

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:


Yes, there is pie underneath all that ice cream.

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.


Another one of my goals while at the National Cherry Festival was to visit the beer tent so I could try the 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.


In the words of the great Mr. Kenny Rogers, sometimes you just need to know when to fold ’em.

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.

Look away! LOOK AWAY!

Look away! LOOK AWAY!

Are you a lover or hater of summer fairs and festivals? And how do you survive the crowds without pushing people into tractors?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On July 24, 2014 at 10:09 am janice said:

    Holy Moly, I wish there was a Cherry Festival happening near me. I want to eat all your pictures of cherry-related foods.

    I’ve never been to a fair, but I’ve always wanted to. I imagine it’d be full of fun and unicorns and rainbows, but, like you, I hate people, so my imagination may just be delusional.
    janice recently posted..Grandma + Naked Janice

    • On July 24, 2014 at 8:26 pm Sally said:

      You’ve NEVER been to a fair. Oh man. That makes my inner child really, really sad for you. I’ll be sure to eat extra fried dough for you the next time I go to one.

  2. On July 24, 2014 at 11:21 am Carmel said:

    I took Shawn to the Puyallup Fair (excuse me, Washington State Fair) for the first time last fall. We went really early on a weekday. That helped a LOT. Although eventually there were a lot of screamy kids and menacing looking teenagers (yep, I’m *that* girl now), we managed to avoid most of them by leaving around 2. Our goal for the event was to make a musical montage video because I tend to think of my life events set to music and funny pictures. I’d say it worked out pretty well:
    Carmel recently posted..WHEREVER I’M WITH YOU

    • On July 24, 2014 at 8:25 pm Sally said:

      OMIGOD, the video is PERFECTION. Now I totally want to go back to the fair and shoot a video. But my video would probably just be of me glaring at people. Probably not as good as your video.
      And, yes, the idea of going on a weekday is definitely a good one.

  3. On July 24, 2014 at 12:32 pm Candice @ The Let's Go Ladies said:

    oooooh mah gawd, deep-fried Reese cups. I don’t think you even know how much I love Reece’s peanut butter cups and deep fried things. My boyfriend got me Reece cups for Valentine’s Day, is how much I love them.

    Also, “I suspect I have that amnesia where you can’t remember what a horrible, antisocial person you are. That’s a thing, right?”

    It’s totally a thing, and you are not alone.
    Candice @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..Make-Out Cafes, Cuddle Couch Dining and Photoshop Photobooths: Misadventures While Dating in Japan

  4. On July 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm Karen H. said:

    That pig is kind of freaking me out. But, a cavy is a guinea pig, and you wouldn’t want to miss that! 🙂

  5. On July 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm becky hutner said:

    I am a festival lovah myself although the ones I go to tend to have more lsd than cherries & more hipster teenagers than kids (the screaming part remains the same). Perhaps I should consider a more wholesome affair?
    becky hutner recently posted..READ This/WATCH That: Creative Travel Inspiration for LOS ANGELES

  6. On July 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm Ed said:

    Why is that pig smiling? Hasn’t he seen the barbeque booth?

    Excellent tips; I think many of us have that inner child/grumpy grown up struggle too…
    Ed recently posted..Am I the Only One Being Chased by an Angry Llama?

  7. On July 24, 2014 at 7:21 pm Rebekah said:

    I never realized I needed this guide until I started reading. I get so grumpy at these things too but I always want to go to them…. Cherry Pie Beer sounds AWESOME
    Rebekah recently posted..Chinese Farmers Markets

    • On July 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm Sally said:

      Some of us cranksters are out and proud… others just need a blog post to make them realize who they TRULY are. Welcome to the tribe. We’re a cranky bunch.

  8. On July 24, 2014 at 11:17 pm Pip said:

    I just found your blog recently, and I suspect we may have been separated at birth.

    Personally, I like to hide behind the sheep pens for a while, or in a corner at the horse shows. Screaming children generally aren’t tolerated well around high-strung horses. All those hooves, you know.

  9. On July 24, 2014 at 11:54 pm Sue B said:

    My main goal in attending fair is to see the Demolition Derby. A must-see. And then to eat a new fried thing. Last time it was deep fried root beer. (Frozen root beer dipped in batter and fried…the root beer melts). It’s not really good, but worth it just to say I had deep fried root beer. The vendors compete to see who can come up with the most unusual fried food. You gotta love a fair with vendors who have such a great purpose.

    • On July 25, 2014 at 7:38 am Sally said:

      Deep-fried root beer??? Wow. I’ve never even heard of that one — and I thought I knew all the deep-fried foods! So glad you tried it — if only to say you tried it.

  10. On July 25, 2014 at 10:56 am Jessica J. Hill said:

    I’m shocked to hear how much you dislike crowds and porta-potties after living in China for so long! Isn’t it funny how quickly we fall back into our old norms?

  11. On July 25, 2014 at 11:01 pm Priya said:

    I have a love/hat relationship with big crowds. Mostly hate. And I a complete hate relationship with porta-potties. But I think if that pie was in front of me, I’d totally have love relationship with it.
    Priya recently posted..The Liebster Blog Awards 2014 (Tom’s Top Ten ?’s)

    • On July 26, 2014 at 8:39 am Sally said:

      I guess you gotta take the good (pie) with the bad (crowds & porta-potties). Or just stay home and eat pie… Wait. Why didn’t I think of that?

  12. On July 26, 2014 at 8:17 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Confession: I, too, can be a total crankypants and festivals. Another confession: I laughed out loud several times when reading this.

    Surprisingly though, I never pushed anyone into a tractor, despite growing up on a farm. Although I did crash my dad’s car into a tractor once – that sort of counts, right?

    And, erm, excuse me but they had NO CHERRY PIE BEER?!? If the cherry margarita thingamajingy hadn’t been available, I think I’d have had to cause a major international incident.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..The Best Things I Ate In July

    • On July 26, 2014 at 8:38 am Sally said:

      I’m not exactly sure what the deal was with the cherry pie beer. The article I read seemed to suggest the cherry pie beer would be pouring during the entire festival. But when I went to the beer tent and asked them for the “beer with the pie in it” the response was “we don’t have that.” I don’t know if that meant they never had it or they ran out of it or they thought I was crazy. (Probably the latter. I mean, it does sound like a crazy idea. A CRAZY AMAZING IDEA.)

  13. On July 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm Cyra said:

    Great post! I too am a lover of fairs and festivals and a hater of crowds and people. I hear you! It’s true, beer tends to do the trick every time, and having a purpose is important too. If I am at a fair or festival without a purpose, I have to leave. The crowds get the better of me!
    Cyra recently posted..Why You Should Visit Costa del Sol’s Best Kept Secret

  14. On July 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm Adelina | PackMeTo said:

    Too funny and me 100%. I hate hate hate the crowds. Too many silly people doing silly things. If only you can do something about that pesky heat that comes with summer fairs. That makes me the most cranky.
    Adelina | PackMeTo recently posted..3 Ways To Know It’s Summer in Vancouver

  15. On July 28, 2014 at 11:46 am Sara @ The Let's Go Ladies said:

    I’m in the same boat when it come to the screamy kids and just general loathing of that many people crammed into one place. I INSTANTLY feel my blood pressure rise. And the LINES! FOR EVERYTHING! GOD, WHY??

    But the food and beer is why I continue to subject myself to fairs. Because, really, food and beer. Deep fried Mars bar, anyone?
    Sara @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..Guest Go-Getter: Morgan! How to Keep Fit While Travelling

  16. On August 1, 2014 at 12:07 am Choi Kum Fook said:

    I like to visit any kind of fair, but I hate crowd also, may be I am getting old! But The foodstuff is quite temptation to me.

  17. On August 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm Montecristo Travels (Sonja) said:

    I am not a crowd person. Severe anxiety issues with that one. An offshoot of being claustrophobic. So I tend to avoid the BIG fairs. What I do instead are smaller lesser known fairs that take up like … a street oh and farmers markets. Farmers Market = FOOD!

  18. On August 26, 2014 at 12:29 am Michelle said:

    I LOVE festivals! Mostly for the music and food. I live in the Deep South where summers are 95 degrees with 95% humidity so we don’t have much of anything outdoors in summer. We have 2 festival seasons… Spring and Fall and then there are too many to get to them all… I even have an official festival shirt~~ yep, a tee shirt that says Official Festival Shirt. A hat is mandatory and mine is decorated with all kinds of funky pins I have collected from artists. Glasses also so I can see to find the food. I carry sunscreen for my fair freckled skin that burns if I don’t reapply 4-5 times. And most important is my camera! Thankfully the music festivals don’t usually have too many screaming kids and if I plop my chair close to a stage, I wouldn’t hear them anyway. Now put my in any store and my screaming kid magnet is activated and I’m sure they follow me all around the store. So I’m pretty sure I hate most people! I much prefer my quiet house and playing with all the fur babies. Explains why my daughter says she is an animal person and don’t do people but in regards to work. She is in vet school to play with animals! She is a social butterfly though…must have gotten that gene from her father

  19. On September 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm Suki F said:

    Good one! I have someone that could use this article 🙂

  20. On March 2, 2015 at 2:49 am Ceri said:

    Oh my christ, that pig is just… no.

    I always wanted to go to a county fair somewhere but after seeing that? Nope.
    Ceri recently posted..My Five Favourite Things in February


  1. unbrave girlHow to Go on a Detox Diet in 20 (Horrible, Awful, Cheese-Deprived) Steps | unbrave girl
  2. My Summer Travel Photos Recreated

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge