Thinking about Michigan’s Berrien County Youth Fair brings back good memories of when my kids were exhibiting vegetables they grew and animals they raised. We packed our 20-foot Class C motorhome with everything we needed and spent the day from early morning until after the evening’s Main Event, and then returned each day for more adventures. The girls had their friends to share the rides and activities; I had a treasured friend with whom to eat disgustingly sugar-filled fair food and monitor kids, while our husbands relished the cowboy stuff and noisy tractor pulls. The convenience of having an RV cannot be overstated for family activities.
Alaska State Fair
All of this is to remind you to put these activities on your list if you are going anywhere near a state or county fair in your travels. In Palmer, Alaska, the state fair entertainment was different from that in the Lower 48, with racing pigs, a lumberjack show, and a mud bog. Native dancers performed, and the Homesteader Events of wood splitting, ax throwing, and crosscut and bow sawing were not what we in the Lower 48 usually see. Animals were also different, with llamas, alpacas, musk ox and reindeer filling the stalls.
I loved being caught up in fair excitement with the colorful flowers, excited youngsters, and Palmer’s magnificent mountain backdrop. Junk food is what an evening at the fair is all about—deep-fried halibut, corn or pork chops on a stick, tamales, batter-fried cheese curds and Kettle Korn. “The Giant Cabbage Weigh Off” produced outsized cabbages. The record then was 105.6 pounds but the 2015 winner came in at 127 pounds! Can you believe that? They grow ‘em big in the Matanuska Valley! Some very unusual looking “Cabbage ladies” helped people get where they needed to be, a perfect evening of fair excitement.
Washington State Fair
This fall I traveled 196 miles round trip aboard Sequim’s Shipley Center bus to the Washington State Fair at Puyallup. The bus ride was comfortable with air conditioning and an experienced driver who took us across the Hood Canal Floating Bridge and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge without getting our feet wet. Admission for opening day was two cans of food to benefit 29 food banks and pantries. They hoped to break last year’s record collection of 275,000 pounds of non-perishable food.
The Puyallup Fair is among the 10 largest fairs in the United States, offering 160 acres to wander through with exciting rides, cattle barns, a range of eateries, huge display buildings, and a wide variety of entertainment, including a Star Trek exhibition. The Star Trek Universe offered an interactive experience for all fans of this wildly popular flight of the imagination. It is imagination isn’t it? I’m sure Captains Kirk and Picard were intently watching over the U.S.S. Enterprise that continues to inspire space junkies.
Let’s face it, state fairs are huge and it would be much better to go every day rather than just once. The Puyallup fair was colorful, noisy (in a good way) with little ones in strollers and Mom and Dad dragging two or three others. Just watching them made me tired. All the thrill rides were popular—the Phoenix Wheel, the RockStar, the Paratrooper, the Slingshot, and the Vertigo Swing among others that once-upon-a-time I would have enjoyed. The big rides required a minimum height to ride and I didn’t want to be embarrassed by admitting to my actual declining inches.
It is even more fun to go at night. I love the lights and all the rides that fling you into the dark sky. I would advise riding the Sky Ride first whether it is day or nighttime, for a real feel for what is there and the size of it.
A petting zoo is always a favorite among the small fry, and they weren’t disappointed with the baby pygmy goats, miniature horses, bunnies, chicks, and the rare opportunity to milk a bogus bovine.
Free concerts, the Northwest Living and Garden Show, and seminars on a variety of subjects were available throughout the 17-day September fair. Some activities like the Monster Truck Rides and the Slamfest Demolition Derbies required special tickets. Slamfest tickets were a bit pricey at $31 but afterward you could see what was left of the vehicles and meet the drivers at a pit party. The Auto Alley exhibit featured eco-friendly cars. Timber Gulch was a new western pioneer town with a jail, pioneer farming and a comedy gunfight show. The Rodeo Wranglers performed somewhere but I didn’t see any of that. Something was happening in every direction, and I didn’t get to all of it.
Food, well, they had everything from Krusty Pups to Onionburgers, which did nothing for me. Honest, I was not looking for anything to eat, but then I saw it and there was no line. It beckoned me with a come-hither stare. Before I knew it, I handed the lady my $156 and borrowed a wheelbarrow to get the elephant ear to the picnic table. It was a 75-foot-in-diameter disc of pure fried batter dripping with butter and covered in sugar. I ate the whole thing! It was so good; it was bad, with calories to last until Christmas 2025.
You never know what you’ll find when you wander inside the big buildings with the booths and new ideas. I made the most entrancing discovery but unless I am paid $1,200 for this column and go back to the fair, I can’t afford it. It was the ultimate in a sleep inducer. It was a big swing that claimed “a pendulum design…that provides a very smooth rocking motion.” I almost fell asleep writing that. The Ultimate Comfort Swing had an online price of $1,795 but the fair price was $1,100. It seated two people but unless they had somebody in mind, that was another story. I have always been able to go to sleep at the turn of a tire (mostly when I wasn’t driving) so I knew after swinging in this, it would be possible to eliminate my snoozing problems.
I mean I have tried everything to sleep all the way through the night; melatonin, prescription pills, and even an entire bottle of wine didn’t work. This swing comes with a 10-year limited warranty but I expect my warranty may be up by that time anyway. The problem was not only paying for it (there goes the kid’s inheritance…again) but also getting it into my apartment bedroom. I cried all the way home.
The Sequim Ukulele group performed in the Education and Arts Pavilion. The songs were all familiar, and we sang right along with them, from “Getting to Know You,” to “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain,” and beyond. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
I am sure you have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, as have I, but for next summer’s visits, add the above ideas to your list. God Bless.
“Winter in the Wilderness,” Sharlene Minshall’s first novel (e-book & hard cover), and the fourth edition of RVing Alaska and Canada are available through Amazon.com. And you can follow Sharlene’s blog, “The Silver Gypsy” online at rvlife.com.