For our field trip to the 2003 California State Fair, we brought along Chef Richard, who was very excited about going to a big fair. It had been 25 years since he'd gone to the fair, and 10 years since he'd been to Sacramento. While we had gone pretty regularly in the 90s, we'd slacked off a bit and hadn't been ourselves in four or five years. All this, plus the fact that Richard is another "good eater," meant that by 10 am on Fair Day (our 7/12ths birthday), we were all champing at the bit to head East.
cb had already filled the tank (with pre-bump gas) and gotten the brakes checked, I'd gotten batteries and tapes into the cameras and recorder, and Richard brought along a fine hat for cb. cb expertly zoomed us across the 90 minutes out to Sacto, past the new bridge going up across the Carquinez Strait, and we arrived at the fair with the lunchtime weekday crowd. First things first, we hopped on the monorail for a quick loop over the northern half of the Cal Expo Center grounds. It's a great ride, arcing out over the big midway, cruising across the water park, over the farm, with its the grass-covered truck.
The weather was perfect, breezier than usual for Sacramento, not a cloud in the sky. So, the sun was blasting - it was a good thing we all had hats. It was lunchtime, so we decided to start with the important stuff - lunch! After reviewing the forward food court and its classic array of fair Fair fare - meat on a stick, cinnamon rolls, funnel cakes, tri tip sandwiches, nutty ice cream bars - we agreed on starting with a classic - fresh cooked corn dogs, washed down with a yummy frozen mocha, striped with chocolate sauce and topped by a pryamid of whipped cream (two straws).
There was a booth from the California Highway Patrol, and I considered a career change for a moment or two, but that chin strap is very itchy. We were psyched that Chef Richard was psyched to see all the animals, because that is the bedrock Fair activity (beyond corndogs and so on). There is a big tent at the front of the farm area where various expectant mother beasts are gathered, giving birth or feeding new babes. We checked out the huge buxom mama pigs in the metal cages, the way adorable goat kids (here and here), and the stacked piglets. Propitiously, we had arrived at the moment when a new calf entered the world. When just her little front hocks were sticking out, they tied chains around her and yanked her out when mom said it was time. She dropped with a bang onto the straw-covered floor of the stage-like raised platform. Happy Birthday, kid!
Apparently some newfangled plague has kept the chickens and ducks from showing up this year. The Fair canceled the competition because of a new bird virus, so we didn't get to admire the fine Rock Island Reds. However, the bunnies made it (here and here) There were several breeds I hadn't seen before, including some incredibly long-haired ones (here, here and here). There were two or three batches of new, tiny bunnies, too. Although we didn't see any of the fine African longhorn cows of past years, there was still lots of beef on display. Oh, and I saw the cover image for the crossover issue of the two great San Francisco 1980s underground 'zines, 1/2Beat and BEEF - 1/2BEEF! There were lots of big goats, and cb scratched some of them between the horns - oh, they love that.
Back at the entrance to the Farm, we also checked out the grass tractor, and a collection of fine old tractors (here and here). There was also a display of old steam engines, one after the other of these old metal contraptions, whirling big metal wheels, running long drive belts, cranking and popping and backfiring along. I collected some audio of these old engines as they choogled along. One guy in a white cowboy hat saw I was taping, and said, "That's got a good beat!" I said yeah, and that I was going to take that sound home and scratch it up, making a little DJ wicka-wicka gesture with my hand, and they all cracked up at that. And on our way out of the Farm, we stopped to appreciate a nice Cotton Blossom.
Somewhere in there was another review of the yummy things to bite, and I got a fine fresh-cooked cheeseburger from the Charcoal Pit, and Richard and I both got some Chicken Teriyaki Meat on a Stick. We had some of those yummy fresh-squeezed Lemonades all around.
This being the Sesquicentennial of the California State Fair, there was a big exhibit full of historical memorabilia from Fairs past (here and here), as well as some award-winning crafts from past fairs, including this beautiful carved music stand.
There was a pig race, of course, and a goat rally.
There was a life-sized mock-up of the Oval Office (it's way small) anchoring a display of American Presidential stuff, including clothes on mannequins, photos, bios, and an audio selection of pithy quotes from various presidents. I looked for something to make my blood pressure go off, but nothing really did. In fact, I was really gratified that they presented an old style punch-ballot (Chad-style) voting booth from Florida, with an authentic, deadly, Palm Beach "butterfly ballot," open to the confused array of Presidential choices, arrows and hole punches that led to thousands and thousands of retired, Jewish Palm Beach residents accidentally voting for right-winger Pat Buchanan when they were trying to vote for Al Gore and the first Jewish Vice-Presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman. Ooops, getting a little political there ... let's just say, we could really use a uniter these days - maybe someone like President Chef Richard. He looks thoughtful, don't you think?
We checked out a lot of the crafts competitions, and I was really inspired by this life-size bull made of flatware and serving platters. And I liked this woodworking project - not just a chess set, but the matching chairs and table with inlaid chess pieces around the rim! Another nice woodcarving was the octopus chasing the crab.
As the sun started to drop, we headed over to the Xtreme motocross arena, where they had a nice jump and landing ramp, and we watched a display of some great tricks (Lazy-Boy, Rock Steady, Indian, Superman, etc) by the three guys jumping motorcycles. This is the first time I've been that close to stunting freestyle bikes, and it was cool.
Finally, our day in the not-too-broiling sun came to a close with a fine trained giant pig show called "SuperPork." SuperPork is a 600 pound hog, very cheery and talented, with a sidekick dog (Drifter) and miniature pig (MiniPork). He did a few not-completely-astounding tricks, and was impressive in his execution. The guy's patter was warm and goofy enough, and I also cooled our jets during this show by passing around a quickly-melting chocolate-dipped ice cream cone which unfortunately turned liquid before SuperPork was halfway through his paces. Drifter, a big brown lab-ish sort, was notable mainly for his trick of walking figure eights backwards through the guy's striding legs (he said "Hmm, shoulda got a shorter dog for this trick"), and for his system of getting his reward - a quick shot directly from a spray can of Cheez-Whiz into his mouth. As Richard noted to me during this, "Heck, I'd do a trick for a shot of Cheez-Whiz in the mouth, too, wouldn't you?"
As we headed towards the exits, we passed by the Charmin Ultra Clean
Bathrooms - more evidence that there are many wild claims made at
the fair, remember that. Just outside the gates, the parade of performers
from the Historical Sideshows section of old-fashioned sideshow acts marched
past us, and I scurried alongside as they went, so I could steal
some beats. cb sailed us home with a perfect drive into
the pink sunset, and we got home in time to wake Punkie up and remind her
we'd been gone all day.