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Festival Time

I too am a hick. I admit it. Sometimes I like to tromp around fairs and festivals, look at the other hicks, and inhale the greasy air. It's a taste of Americana - no pun intended.

The fairs and festivals that sprout up like weeds in the Midwest in August are replete with bored people looking for anything to keep their brains from become atrophied. One can only watch so many re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies, you know. Fairs and festivals are places where hicks like me can find free entertainment among the elephant ears, funnel cakes and Uncle Jim's Super Sausage sandwiches.

The Midwest fairs and festivals in August are a cardiologists dream. A typical fair meal of two Uncle Jims, an order of "fresh cut" French fries cooked in pure lard, a couple of funnel cakes or elephant ears - your choice - topped off with Granny Emily's "fresh" peach cobbler ala mode has just 12,000 calories and 250 grams of saturated fat and 67 grams of trans fat. Who's counting. It's fair time in the Midwest - a time when all us hicks throw caution to the wind and stuff ourselves with grease-laden goodies. Yum! Makes me hungry just thinking about it. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

My festival meal has all the food groups covered too:

The meat group. The bread group. The vegetable group. The fat group. The dairy group. The sugar group. The fresh-air group. The pasty group.

All this thinking about fair food puts me in the mood to sit back and have a cigarette. After all that fat, would it really matter? Eat, drink and be merry! Anyone know where I can buy a beer?

Fairs and festivals are excellent places to study new cultures too. Take the "carnies" for instance. Carnies are a very interesting lot. They are well-traveled and have an air of sophistication about them a Midwestern hick like me doesn't often get to see. It's almost like going to New York or Los Angeles without having to leave the comfort of my little town.

Carnies were tattooed and pierced long before it became popular with the youth here in the Midwest. I can remember being a kid and paying my quarter to through a baseball at some furry dolls trying to win a Zippo lighter. I can't remember why I wanted that Zippo so bad because I didn't smoke when I was eight. I sure wanted it though. Maybe it was the budding arsonist in me? Maybe I should be thankful those dolls were 90% fur and 10% substance. I never got my Zippo and therefore never became an arsonist. I did become a smoker though - although that was much later. I finally bought a Zippo. But, by the time I actually put my fingers around that smooth, cool surface of a Zippo, the firebug had left me.

I digress. I remember ogling the carnie women when I was a kid. My grandfather called them "gypsies" and so did I. Now they are called "carnies", which, I suppose, is a less negative moniker than "gypsies" - more politically correct in this age of PC.  I used to marvel at the tattooed ladies. We didn't have many tattooed ladies walking down the streets of my little town. So this was my once-a-year chance to ogle at these ladies and I always did.

I imagine the girls used to ogle the carnie men too. Not having been a girl, I'm not sure of this. It seems to me though, the young girls of my little town must have been doing their share of ogling. Girls are more sneaky than guys. Girls ogle furtively. I know they must have been ogling and quivering with excitement though. I mean these carnie guys had traveled the world. Who knows, they might have even been to Missouri or even Colorado!  What girl wouldn't have given anything to travel with a guy who had slicked-back hair, dirty fingernails, and a Camel hanging from their lips? These guys had actually been to Colorado! These guys live out of suitcases! Real men. Real nomads! The girls were ogling, I'm sure of it. Ogling the guys just like I was ogling the painted gypsies - err I mean "carnies".

Missouri and Colorado were far away places when I was growing up. I would nibble on my funnel cake and wonder what they ate in places like that. I had only seen these kinds of places and people in books.

This year, I will be going to the Circleville Pumpkin Show. This festival is so big and so popular that it's not called a "fair" or even a "festival" - it's a show. A really big show. They have the world's largest pumpkin there - so so they say. When I saw a photo of it, it didn't look like a pumpkin at all. It looked like a big, gray tumor. Here, you think I'm kidding don't you. Look down!

Makes you wonder from which of these fine folks that big gray thing was extracted, doesn't it? Whichever it was, I bet they felt better with it out. What? You say it's tan not gray? Adjust your monitor! It's sure not ORANGE. Hey, take a gander at that big trophy! Only in small-town America! I bet you New Yorkers are oozing envy right now.

Anyway...being a hick, and having only been exposed to pumpkins from around my little town, I thought pumpkins were supposed to be orange. The people who run the Pumpkin Show and who know much more about pumpkins than I do chose a big gray lump to be the star of the show last year. They said it was the world's largest pumpkin which shows you how much I know. I'm heading down there this year to get an education about pumpkins - the gray kind - and to eat funnel cakes, Uncle Jim's Sausage sandwiches, "fresh-cut" French fries, Granny Emily's "fresh" peach cobbler ala mode, drink beer and try something new: pumpkin burgers.

I can hardly wait.

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