Thursday, August 11, 2011

Think the fair starts today? Think again.

Hey, Des Moines. I have a secret.

Everyone thinks the fair starts today, but it doesn't. It actually started yesterday.

I'll explain.

About four or five years ago, some co-workers and I started something that has become a tradition in our office. We had been charged with going to the fair the day before it opened to pick up tickets for our boss, who had planned a department outing for the next afternoon.

We drove to the administration building inside the fairgrounds, bought the tickets, and noticed something: Some vendors were open, and they were hawking their wares. We decided to explore for a bit and were greeted by folks hanging out the front windows of their food stands, asking us to sample things that would go on sale the next day. We gladly obliged them, and we bought a few goodies as well.

We spent our lunch hour walking around the grounds, enjoying corn dogs and lemonade and chocolate-chip cookies. No attractions or buildings had opened, so we didn't feel guilty about entering the grounds for free; really, all we could do was eat. But that was plenty; we three grown women smiled at one another conspiratorially, as if we'd scaled the fence.

The next year, our group grew by one or two. And yesterday, we hooligans, professional women ranging in age from early 30s to early 50s, set out on our covert operation once again.

It was obvious when we drove inside the gates that our secret had leaked out to a few more folks, but no matter -- we remained pretty pleased with ourselves, and we set out to cram as much fun into our hour as we possibly could.

The moral of the story? You're never too old to break the rules. And when you head to the fair, you have to buy a red-velvet funnel cake.

We parked and headed down the main concourse, plotting our attack.

This mini-restaurant, operated by the West Des Moines United Methodist Church, won our business when the proprietor said, "Come on in and sit down -- we'll serve you!"

We made our selections from a varied menu with really reasonable prices. Melissa was hoping for pie.

Amanda chose a pulled-pork meal. Prices for the combos ranged from $7 to  $9 -- not bad at all for the fair!

Our waiter, Isaac, demonstrated some serious customer-service chops to go with his Justin Bieber smile. Thanks, Isaac!

We didn't hit the midway, but it was looking busy.

Due to a strangely large number of things named "Mary" or "Porter" at the fair, our own Mary Porter grabbed quite a few photo ops.


We old-timers remembered the fair train and noted this evidence of its former existence. My kids loved that train.

Dating myself again, I mentioned that rides on the giant slide used to cost a quarter.

Amanda posed next to my very favorite ironic fair sign.  Once again, the Turkey Federation's spokes-turkey appears to be promoting ... cannibalism?

I couldn't resist pointing out the misplaced apostrophe.

These cool little calves were everywhere.

On the way out, we found the holy grail.

The red-velvet funnel cake may have resembled intestines, but it was worth all the hype. 

Thumbs up, funnel-cake guy.  Sssh -- don't share our secret.  See you next year.

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