Coasting down the giant slides at the Arizona State Fair time and time again is one of my favorite childhood memories. I remember racing to the top of the giant staircase and then smiling wildly as the fall chill whipped against my face during the sail back down.
So when my boyfriend suggested we visit the fair a couple of weeks ago, I was immediately game. However, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Surely the experience of the Arizona State Fair is different at 27 than 12, right?
Strolling through the brightly-colored booths, smelling the grease in the fryers, feeling the Arizona heat on my back, hearing the screams of people on rides – it was all a heavy dose of sweet nostalgia.
The Mardi Gras funhouse is still standing and it’s exactly how I remember it. The giant slides sit proudly over the fairgrounds. The alien abduction anti-gravity ride is still twirling and whirling away. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, and fried Twinkies are available every 20 steps.
Of course, my day was full of new experiences, too. Many people go to the fair for the food, the rides, the games. Those weren’t my favorite things. My favorites included a fluffy alpaca, Native American hoop dancers, pig races, and exhibition halls.
My inner hick danced a jig as we watched the good old Sue Wee Flying Pigs races, the first fair event that I demanded we see while there. The pigs were all wobbly legs and curly tails, and who wouldn’t want to cheer on The Notorious P.I.G.? I wanted to take one of the piglets home, but then I remembered how much Biscuit enjoys bacon and I decided that wasn’t the best idea.
Internally, I was naming all of the livestock on display in the show barns, regardless of whether they already had monikers. For example, I inwardly dubbed a cow Bessie (cliché, I know, but it worked), an alpaca Chuck, and a llama Moses.
Walking through the crafty exhibits, especially those involving clothing, inspired me to submit something for judging next year. Somehow I think my comic book heels and the corset I plan to make in the same vein would go over pretty well with the judges.
Five words – fried s’mores on a stick.
I was enthralled with the Native American hoop dancers that performed on one of the community stages. I love cultural dancing, I love movement that tells a story, and as any true burlesque artist should, I love me some props. I’m appreciative that the fair includes such diverse and important entertainment. That same stage also saw a hard core rock band earlier in the day and a classic folklorico performance after the hoop dancers.
Honestly, I had no idea that there was fine art and photography at the fair – or that a good deal of it is submitted by kids from public schools and arts programs. Wandering through the displays of every artform imaginable, my heart smiled knowing that kids are still creative and in touch with paint and a canvas, or knitting needles and yarn. Technology hasn’t completely taken over the next generation. This makes me happy.
There was definitely a hipster sighting. I know, look who’s talking, right? But my point is that we saw young families, kids in high school, hipsters, hicks – all of Phoenix was represented, the full gamut of folks who make up one of the largest cities in the country.
Where else does that happen without some kind of riot breaking out? There’s something about the fair that appeals to all of us. Maybe it’s the giant turkey legs.
Or maybe it’s the energy, the throwback, the fun, and the opportunity for a couple to walk around holding hands, enjoying the simplest things in life.
Yeah, I’m gonna go with that one.