Somehow we ended up at the Fairgrounds this week. We had planned to go up north with the kids for a few days but it didn’t end up working. We were of course feeling a bit sorry for letting them down and rather quickly promised a Make-Up Plan (these never end up being good ideas….I should know by now).
The last time I’d been to a fair was back in the wee years of 4-H. I wish I could say I did the horse-barrel racing or something equally exciting but no, my little striped jumper was sitting on a table in the exhibit barn. What? You’ve never seen the sewing exhibits? Little did you know all that fun was just one barn away. We’d meander from the exhibit barn (which did actually have neat exhibits) and watch the skill of horses and riders next to country girls tossing long-braided hair over their back, flannel shirt in-tact and jeans tucked into boots. Guys would have hats tipped on the back of their head, massive belt-buckles, worn-in and nearly worn-out cowboy boots and be talking loudly about horses, cows, and other fair things.
And then the food. My dad would always get the famous elephant ear (deep-fried healthy goodness) and share with all of us. And if we were real lucky we’d get fresh-squeezed lemonade. So yes, I was reminiscing about these lovely things and thought a fair would be just the thing for a fun family night. I even promised a ride to the kids; at this point Darryl was raising his eyebrows and questioning my parenting abilities but it was impossible to take this promise back (bad idea number two if you’re keeping track).
Perhaps I’m still enduring culture-shock after being in Asia for a while. Or maybe I’m sheltered. Or old-fashioned. It could be. But it was an entirely different affair this time around.
-Enjoying the animal barns. The kids love to see the animals and it’s good to admire other kid’s hard work and skill in caring for an animal. Calvin must have wondered where on earth he was when the pig scents wafted over us. The highlight was watching the little goats play king on the mountain over a little crate.
-Tractors for the kids to climb on. It’s good for kids to know how vital farms are to our communities and how they work.
-Watching riders and animals use their skill in competitions. Our highlight has always been the barrel races, love it!
If we had been smart we would’ve stopped here! My sister and her family had a fantastic night at the fair, spending time in the exhibit barns with really creative projects, admiring the prized produce, seeing the animals (they even got to milk a cow), climbing tractors, and chatting with friends. Lesson learned for me.
-The FOOD! I imagined a fair in Asia, people would be eating dried seaweed, rice and vegetables, fried chicken on stick, etc. What do we offer? Fried Oreos was a new one. But it gets better, fried Twinkies, fried onions, fried whatever-you-can-throw-in-the-vat. I’m wondering if it’s even possible to offer anything more unhealthy. If there is I’m sure they’ll be offering it (and by the looks of things we’ll be buying it).
-Not so funny. Clowns playing instruments wearing clothes crossing from funny to inappropriate. I thought clowns were funny enough with a big red nose, orange wig and huge red shoes. I guess the clowns playing didn’t get the memo. Transgender arrangements seem to be the funny thing now?
-A Sorry Lot. No really, when you look around at folks you see stressed-out folks throwing money wildly at the ticket counter to get tickets for rides that are falling apart, way too short, and perhaps a millisecond entertaining. Most of the folks running the rides are immigrants…it made me wonder exactly what picture they’ve formed of us.
-Chaotic Ugliness. The lights look good from far away but when you get closer you just see dirt and grime. Weary, life-tired folks running the rides who probably have a love/hate relationships with pleasure-seeking crowds. Mom and dads yelling at kids who are whining because they only got to do three rides and the first wasn’t fun anyway. The great cacophonous rising from the contradicting music and crowds makes you want to escape to the nearest empty space of earth.
-Lack of Creativity. Part of the thrill of fairs has always been a reflection of gifts. Skills people have acquired, talents they’ve been given, and rewards from plain hard work. This is creativity at work. Sadly, this seems to be a small side issue at the fair and the less creative things (food and $4.00, 30 second rides) are where the crowds descend.
If you’ve made it this far you’ve probably concluded that I’ve got a serious problem of “raining on the parade”. Probably. Maybe you’re one of those folks who actually loves the fair (and there are very wonderful creative parts, for sure).
BUT. I do contend that this silly little fair is really a snapshot of our culture. It’s tired. It’s dirty. It’s thrill-seeking and cheap. It’s not satisfied and fills cravings with things that perpetuate emptiness. We’ve forgotten what good really is and what fun really is. We’ve settled for dirt when there is real and satisfying Good to be had. We’re in a Carnival world where all that glitters is most definitely NOT gold. It’s even lost it’s appearance of gold.
We are craving and needing real good even as we spiral down in morality and purpose and creativity. And there is provision for us, the most depraved and hopeless soul, provision in Jesus. In Him our ultimate craving (being back in a right relationship with our Creator) is satisfied and overwhelmed.