10 Spot Ramble: State Fair

What can I say? Their joy is complete with the cotton candy!

Today we visited the Big City and went to the State Fair.


State Fairs are great for so many things, the midway, commercial building, live stock, and a chance to admire baked goods and quilts crafted by the masters.


It’s also an awesome place to see the unusual – things like adults sporting humongous hickey’s, young children baring their midriffs, and outgrown fraternity brothers selling Webkins stuffed animals for $5.


At some point during the day as I was stuffing myself with roasted corn and cotton candy I began to wonder what makes a state fair so entertaining.


You know where these ponderings bring me, don’t you? Yes, my friend, it’s a 10 Spot Ramble, all designed to teach us some fun facts about


State Fairs!


1. State Fairs began as a place to exhibit livestock. Well, maybe you already knew this if you’ve ever read Charlotte’s Web. Wilbur was some pig, but that Charlotte… she should have never died. The emphasis on livestock may also explain why life-size butter sculptures of cows have been found at the Iowa State Fair since 1911.


2. There is a difference between a “fair” and a “carnival.” Carnivals consist of games, rides, shows, feasting, and overall merriment, which developed from the traditional outdoor festivals of Europe in honor of seasonal changes or religious holidays. Fairs are large, theme-based events held to promote and present agricultural, commercial, industrial, and artistic exhibits to fairgoers while also providing the fun and amusement of carnivals.


3. The U.S. fair tradition is more than 100 years old. The USA’s first state fair was held in Syracuse, New York in September of 1841. However, that was NOT the first time that fairgoers ate hot dogs and ice cream. The world’s first “fast foods” were consumed as people walked along the midway during the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904.


5. Fairy Floss Didn’t Make It. What we call “Cotton Candy” was originally called “Fairy Floss” and was invented in 1897 by candy makers William Morris and John C. Wharton of Nashville, Tennessee. It was introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. I, personally, am a fan of the change in terminology because “fairy floss” makes me think of Tinkerbell wearing thong underwear. {Yes, I just went there.}


6. Fairs are the Poop. The average 10-day fair produces 155 tons of used animal bedding between all of the livestock.


7. The Fair Circuit isn’t Awful for Musicians. I’ve always been under the impression a beak out artist or used up famous person works the fair circuit as a hedge against complete retirement. This is why I keep expecting to see Cher at the state fair. However, the proof is in the pudding – state fairs can be lucrative for the artists – Garth Brooks was paid $65,000 to perform at the Kansas State fair in 1993. I bet he bought some Indian Fry Bread and a corndog.


8. State Fairs Make Good Political Stumps. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt delivered the famous “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” speech at the Minnesota State Fair in 1901. Later known as the “Big Stick Policy”, it was a foreign policy that advocated the use of caution and diplomacy, backed by the use of power if needed.


9. Carnies Speak a Different, Musical, Language. John Phillip Sousa wrote Stars and Stripes Forever in December 1886. By act of Congress, it was designated the national march song of the USA. In theaters and circus’ it is known as the “Disaster March” and, if played during a performance, is a code signaling that a dangerous or life threatening situation exists and is a cue to evacuate the premises in an emergency, orderly fashion. In the circus, the song is NEVER played unless an emergency situation exists.


10. Roller Coasters Rock. People come from all over the world to experience specific roller coasters, which is handy because otherwise we wouldn’t have any. First created in Russia in 1784 for Queen Catherine the Great, the roller coaster – or “American Mountains” – was built in the Gardens of Oreinbaum in Saint Petersburg. It was a a type of train that did not lock the wheels to the track.  Today, roller coasters with locked wheels can do twists (called ‘corkscrews’) and complete, inverted circles.


What are your favorite things to do at the State Fair?





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