Thursday, August 6, 2009

Viva La Jupiter Jump

In almost forty years of life, I have missed the Ohio State Fair only one time, and that was back in 1978 when my parents went to Europe and my brother and I went to stay at our grandparents in Chillicothe (and even then, I'm wondering why we didn't finagle a little day-trip down to Columbus...)

Anyway, I've been twice this year, once with a friend a night (I haven't trolled the Midway since I was like seventeen, so that was pretty fun) and then yesterday with my mother (right when it opens, as is our custom.)

Instead of reporting on my goings-on, I thought I'd just offer some suggestions of some of my favorite things to maybe assist those who still need to go (you've got until this Sunday...)

If you think you want to go, but don't want to fight the crowd, consider going early. Gates open at 9 (although, it should be noted a lot of the buildings and things don't open until 10 or 11.) But here's what you can do. Have someone drop you off at the big Ohio gate at 11th Ave (there's a big turn-around for easy drop-off/pick-up.) Once inside the gate, you can go directly to the Mini Donut stand locate right in front of the Commercial Building. Get a bag of mini-donuts (there's enough to split) and a coffee and sit on one of the near-by picnic tables.

The Natural Resources Park is right behind the Commercial Building. It is open early. You can wander around the park, see Smokey the Bear although he's "sleeping" so you don't get the full affects of kids freaking out when he speaks their name (a brilliant bit of human coordination in action going on in this bit, like watching a good con act operate.) New this year is man-made kayak pond right in the middle of the park. I looks like they hold informational classes for people who want to learn. If it's still not 10 by the time you come out, you can wander through the Rabbits and Roosters building, say you saw some live things.

Food - Of course, it's hard to go wrong with Fair Food (unless you get the cheese on a stick; seriously, it's like a soggy piece of cornbread with a heap of runny cheese at the bottom...) but you should consider some of the things you can only get at the Fair. My all-time favorite is the Swiss cheese sandwich at the Dairy Building. Not much to it, but it is fresh, fresh, fresh (oh, it also contains a smear of butter, which freaks some people out, but I personally like it.) Equally good at the Dairy Building is a strawberry ice cream. I usually just have a bite of my mom's.

A piece of corn is also a great choice. My friend Kim used to get a piece every year when we were growing up. I declined, but now realize it was because I couldn't get over the smell of burning husks. But it doesn't taste like burning; it tastes like good, Ohio-grown corn. There are a couple of Bulk Candy bullpens. What's good about these is you can typically find candy you can't seem to find anywhere else (for me it's chocolate bullseyes and vanilla Tootsie Rolls.) Be warned, though, it's all pay-by-the-pound, they give you a basket and send you through a maze. Impulse-buying is very easy to do. You will be shocked to find that you just purchase twelve dollars in candy and will be too embarrassed to go back and replace it (my lesson from a few years ago...) Go easy.

A word on the exhibits. I hate when people go off and trash the Fair in a "it's not like it used to be." Those people tend to leave out all of the good things that replaced the crappy stuff back in the day. But, I will say the things like the crafts and things have dwindled considerably in volume and quality, so that's a little sad.

Likewise, the era of the etched locker-mirror is also over, and seemingly not replaced with a contemporary equivalent. My friend Bridie's mom mailed me one with the MTV logo with a note (I was cleaning out the basement. Bridie said I should mail it to you.) Of course I equally remember Def Leppard and Van Halen-adorned mirrors as well... There were plenty of over-sized, inflatable baseball bats, but, they seemed destined for another demographic.

I was, however, delighted to walk by one of the many rides flinging teenagers about and hear the song "The Final Countdown."

It's been several years since I've braved any rides (more a matter of the "temporary" nature of the rides than the rides themselves, althought there is that.) But the Sky Ride is a nice way to end the day, especially if you're there at the end of the night and you can get on at dusk.

I asked my mom if there were things my brother and I particularly liked to do at the Fair as kids. "Well, you always liked the rides," she said thoughtfully. "Most of them, but those inflatable ones in particular. If there was one of those in the vicinity, anywhere you went, your shoes were off and you were in it."


  1. Good memories. We did not attend this year. I may still take the family and make a few memories before Sunday.

    One year my mother took my brother and me to see The Osmond’s at the fair. I remember being very thirsty and watching the guys carry soda back and forth just wishing we could get one. My brother stuck his hand in one of the cups so mother would have to buy it. Genius! Actually, it is more memorable than watching Donny dangle from a helicopter at the end of the show.

  2. I do miss the fair...nothing really compares to it here in Atlanta...

    My first concert and kiss from a boy was at the Ohio State fair...Sha Na Na was the concert, and the kiss was from Bowser!!! :)

  3. Love that Ohio Roast Corn! Yummmy! We had the perfect food plan when we went Lia. Great memories....someday, I want to share that with the kids..preferably while they think I'm still cool. :-)