I'm deeply conflicted by the entire fair concept. The expectation of fun is nearly oppressive, and the options for entertainment are so overwhelming that it sort of makes me want to go sit in an empty room and rock back and forth for awhile. And now that I have a child who is old enough to have her own tastes (for fried Snickers) and preferences (for rides that involve trucks or oversized fruit), it adds a whole new risk for decision-induced meltdown. Not to mention how difficult it is to explain that there are some things we just are not going to do, like spend $20 trying to win a dusty, oversized stuffed Nemo or taking a ride on the giant ferris wheel. (No, I'm not a total crank, it's just that we went on the humongous ferris wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago and I spent the entire ride trying not to throw up while M tried to squeeze out of the 6" gap between the door and floor.)
My biggest conflict of this year's fair outing, however, came in the beer tent. Someone - I'm not sure if it was Miller or Budweiser or if there's even a difference - spent some money bringing bands in to play for the ... well, crowd is too strong a word. Sparsely distributed collection of random strangers looking for someplace to sit and eat, or else possibly waiting in line for beer is a better description. It was a group of various demographics who all had one thing in common: complete disinterest in the people standing on stage with the instruments. We even saw one guy standing 20 feet away from the stage, trying to carry on a cell phone conversation over the 120-decibel Skynyrd medley going on behind him. As Kip Kilpatrick and the Kippers* rocked their little hearts out, playing Pink Floyd covers as well as original songs that all sounded like Train B-sides, the "audience" totally ignored them. Which was my first instinct as well, but then the singer mentioned something about their 10-hour drive from Virginia and I almost wanted to cry. I suddenly felt a deep sympathy for these guys, traveling halfway across the country in a ratty conversion van to play a three-hour set in the middle of a Monday afternoon so a bunch of half-drunk Memphians would have something to listen to while they ate their footlong Pronto Pups. So when they finished their hard rock cover of "Whisky In The Jar" and M clapped with all the enthusiasm her drained little body could muster, I clapped right along. I think I may have even hooted.
And then I got a Pronto Pup.
*I made that up. The frontman actually looked like Dave Navarro. Or thought he did.