An observation from visitors to the 2009 Florida State Fair!

 

I love the state fair.

 

I freely admit it.

 

Do you have The World's Biggest Pig and will let me see it for only fifty cents? SWEET!

 

Are you demonstrating the Sham-Wow ("YOU KNOW GERMANS ALWAYS MAKE GOOD STUFF") for a crowd of disinterested tourists? I'M THERE.

 

Are you running a ride that is clearly missing a support strut and making audible grinding noises as it goes around? AWESOME.

 

Just let me finish my steak-on-a-stick and I will be right with you.

 

I will happily spend six hours in a day wandering around under the Florida sun, managing to burn even the part in my hair, getting my feet run over by people in scooters and divesting myself of cash for things on sticks.

But the best? Oh man, the best are the Sideshows.

 

So yesterday my husband and I are at the state fair, and in between a spray-paint artist and a woman selling personality analysis based on handwriting we see a large red tent. On the front, on a platform, is a man in a pinstriped suit and red snakeskin shoes. I am ecstatic over those shoes. Those shoes make me happy in the way the laughter of children might do for others.

 

The tent is festooned with all the very best in sideshow poster attractions. GORILLA GIRL -- SEE HER CHANGE BEFORE YOUR EYES! DR FRANKENSTEIN -- SEE THE ACT BANNED IN THREE COUNTRIES! SPIDERELLA -- HALF WOMAN, HALF SPIDER, SHE WILL SPEAK TO YOU!

 

Awwwwww yeah. Who do I give my money to?

 

That would be the man onstage swallowing the broadsword next to the fire-eating elderly midget.

 

AWESOME.

 

So we pay our two dollars and eagerly head inside with all the other tired, sweaty looky-loos. While we wait for the show to start, I spend some time chatting with one of the performers, and ask where she got her awesome boots and leather corset. I love all forms of showbiz and spectacle, and the shows like this that revel in their own cheesiness are particularly near-and-dear to me. The people are always cheerful, clever, and into whatever weirdness they're doing, absolutely fascinating to talk to.

 

The show begins, and we are treated to the CHINESE TORTURE BOX which we will put our lovely assistant in and then stick with no less than FOURTEEN REAL STEEL BLADES. The master-of-ceremonies has gravity defying hair that I like to imagine is held in place with snake oil.

"THE BACK IS FAKE THIS IS SUCH A RIP-OFF."

 

The warble comes from the back of the meager crowd, but I can't immediately place it's origin. The 'Hubs (that is, my husband), looks around, annoyed; having worked for just such a travelling carnival for a year during his teens, he has a soft spot for performers like this.

 

The show continues, and this time we meet SPIDERELLA, HALF WOMAN, HALF SPIDER who was found living UNDER A ROCK BEHIND PARIS HILTON'S HOME and -- "SHE'S JUST STICKING HER HEAD THROUGH A HOLE OVER A FAKE SPIDER BODY THIS IS SUCH A RIP-OFF."

This time the tent falls mostly silent. Someone laughs derisively. The decrier is a leathery looking woman in a belly-top clutching the arm of her perpetually embarrassed looking husband. Her head is wreathed in cigarette smoke as she stubs out the one she's been smoking and immediately lights another.

 

I'm getting angry now. I paid my two dollars to be good and amused by these fine folks who know very well how corny their act is. It's not exactly breaking the bank here, and you're free to leave at any time. (I couldn't if I want, I'm still hypnotized by those AWESOME SHOES OH MY GOD I NEED THEM.)

But it's not my place to say anything, and the announcer chooses not to address her as we continue on to DR FRANKENSTEIN whose act is SO DANGEROUS AND UNSETTLING we half to pay an extra dollar to ABSOLVE THEM OF ANY EMOTIONAL TRAUMA WE MIGHT INCUR if we wish to watch it, and baby, I've got my dollar right here, lay it on me!

"THIS IS SUCH --" arises from the back of the crowd again, but doesn't get the chance to finish.

 

"HEY LADY." my husband says in his special, carrying fog-horn voice that silences all other noise. "IS IT A RIP-OFF? OH MY GOD, PLEASE, WE'RE DYING TO KNOW. IT'S SO AWESOME THAT YOU'RE SUCH A COMPLETE BITCH THAT YOU'RE WILLING TO RUIN THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHER PEOPLE TO LET US KNOW WHAT A RIP-OFF THIS IS."

 

Before the woman can respond, my husband spins to hers and continues. "HEY BUDDY, I JUST WANTED TO SAY IT'S SO COOL HOW YOUR WIFE IS COMFORTABLE BEING A MISERABLE BITCH TO COMPLETE STRANGERS. MY WIFE WOULD NEVER DO THAT. DO YOU WANT TO TRADE? MINE CAN MAKE LASAGNA."

 

I'm surprised that the couple leaves without incident, because usually their type loves conflict. But no. Amidst the sudden, startled laughter and applause of both audience and cast, they quickly take their leave, heads down, unwilling to meet our gazes.

 

We paid our dollar and got to see Dr Frankenstein, who was an elderly man in a kilt and let me come up close to watch while he pushed a hat-pin through his neck, which admittedly may be more due to the amusing squealing noises I made then my husband's chivalry.

 

Folks, please. It's two dollars. You expect a certain level of fakery. Do not ruin the event for others who may be perfectly happy to be fooled/unburdened of monetary concerns. Just like nobody cares how high you are or how drunk you were, nobody cares what a rip off you think this side-show is.

 

Do us all a favor and just take your leave the next time you don't enjoy something, because we won't miss you.

 

WOW - I'm a fan!!!!!

 

Old enough to know better, young enough to do it again.

 


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