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My husband and I went to the state fair a few days ago. We go every year, and it’s always fun. And, we do the same thing every year, it never varies. We start out splitting a ribeye sandwich from the beef barn, then we visit the Family Arts building displaying homecraft, photographs and antiques. At the antiques display we compare what’s on exhibit with what we have at home and always decide ours our better, that we should enter the antiques competition with some of our collection next year. Then at the photographs, we always play “Which one do you like best?” at each individual display. After which, I try to convince my husband to enter some of his photography someday.

My State Fair Antiques Entry in 2013

Eventually, we go outside, split an order of fried cheese, get a lemon shake-up, and go to the agricultural building where we see the bonsai display, the orchid competition, the prize-winners from the various vegetable competitions, gourds, honey, and stacked-can sculpture. Next, we split a corn dog. Then come a couple of  university educational displays, a look at the giant cheese sculpture, a funnel cake, pigs, horses, sheep, cows, another lemon shake-up, ending with one of the fair’s deep-fried delicacies (this year Oreos and Reeses Cups) and that brings our day to a close. We’re tired, our bellies are full, and we’ve had a great time.

Of all our regular activities though, I think the one I enjoy the most is people-watching. It’s fun to sit back and observe, and wonder where they’re going when they pass by, what are they thinking, what is their story? I like to attach my own stories to some of these people. One small group – possibly grandmother, daughter and son – passed me four times within the span of twenty minutes as I sat in the shade and sipped a drink. They scurried by, turned around, scurried back, turned around, scurried by again, then scurried back. To me, they were looking for something. But what? The biggest pig at the state fair? The best grilled giant turkey leg? In my matticusind, they were looking for the best value for their limited money. Perhaps they were going to split one terribly expensive ribeye steak sandwich three ways, or they were looking for a lemon shake-up stand that served slightly larger portions than the other stands because all they could afford was one drink to share. A tragedy had befallen them recently, left them very poor, but they scrimped and saved to have this one special day at the fair, one day to get away from their everyday lives and problems, and while they couldn’t afford to spend much, they weren’t going to let that ruin their day. They had each other, the sacrifices it took to get them to the fair were forgotten, and they were having the best day they’d had in a long, long time. In my mind, their story had a beautiful happily-ever-after ending because of the pure joy they found in being there, together, as a family.

Then there was the big burly man, pushing his baby daughter in a carriage. He had tattoos everywhere, was shaved bald, looked pretty ominous overall, but I saw the tender expression on his face when he looked at his daughter, and that said it all. To me, he became the single father hero I like to write about. Victim of a tragic divorce, a cheating wife, or death. The man who gives up his life to take care of his child. The man who doesn’t know a thing about raising children but blunders his way through it to become the best possible dad ever. Someone who lovingly makes the sacrifices and is eager to face each and every new day because he is a daddy, and daddyhood now defines him. This big, burly guy didn’t look like the typical hero in my books, but he was the hero in every aspect of the word and in my story, he met the perfect woman, maybe even at the fair, had many more children, and had found a happiness he’d never known could exist for him.

So, state fair is over for me for another year. And next year, I think I will enter a few of my antiques in the antiques competition. Next year, I think we’ll enter one of my husband’s beautiful photos in the photograph competition, as well. We’ll also have a corn dog, fried cheese, and a funnel cake. Next year, I’ll also sit back and observe the people, and make up stories about them. It’s a great way to stretch the writer’s mind!resized crowd
Do you go to a fair of any sort? Or a park, or a shopping mall, or a restaurant where you can observe the people and make up stories? Have you ever used one of those stories in your own writing?

Until next time, wishing you health and happiness…






9 thoughts on “PEOPLE-WATCHING by Dianne Drake”

  1. The Florida State fair is nothing like the fairs up north. My favorite places for people watching are the theme parks in Orlando or the airport.
    I do miss the Wisconsin state Fair of my younger days…..grilled fresh corn on the cob, bratwurst, beer and giant cream puffs, plus the animal and 4-h displays. Then they always had the big expo halls which were like a giant “As seen on TV” commercial before they existed. We also had a lot of top name band concerts, and the last weekend was always the Miller 500 car races… loud you couldn’t hear the folks screaming on the thrill rides!

  2. Hi Dianne

    Great post here in Sydney Australia we have The Royal Easter Show (yes over Easter) where the country meets The City and we used to go every year never missed I went when I was a kid and then we took our kids then we went on our own pretty much the same as you we had the things that we liked to see and then there were the different ring events every year, but it has been a few years since we have been now hubby’s mobility isn’t what it used to be and of course cost is another issue, But yes I love people watching even if I don’t write 🙂

    Have Fun

    1. I’m in a wheelchair, but our fair is very accessible. Somewhere along the way I think they figured out that people with disabilities have money to buy those corndogs, too! Hope you and your hubby can get out to your Royal Easter Show again. I know you’d have a lovely time.

  3. I LOVE a State Fair. I haven’t been one in years – but we do have small county shows over here in England. We sound like kindred spirits. Good snacks, some quality people watching and a chance to scratch some animals on the head. I’m going to confess something to you – I’ve never had a corndog. One day, Dianne. One day.

  4. I haven’t been to a state fair in a long time. You make me want to plan a trip. I live near a large airport and I find it to be the perfect place to people watch. Great stories just walking by.

  5. We have fairs here. Not State fairs being in Canada, but similar. They spring up at various times. I used to go the Canadian National Exhibition every late August growing up outside of Toronto. Now, living in SW Ontario the city looks forward to the Western Fair, but I prefer smaller town ones as opposed to the Ex in Toronto and the Western fair. Last summer we went to Bayfield, Ontario and really enjoyed their fair. I like people watching, but I’m not one for crowds.

  6. Love your photos, Dianne!

    In my experience, people fall into two camps – those who love a fair, and those who absolutely hate them 🙂 I adore our fabulous state fair, and took my kids every year, with my parents often coming along, too. My husband hates the fair, so we left him at home so he wouldn’t spoil our fun 😉 Seeing all the different animals is always fun – the ‘designer’ chickens and rabbits and ugly turkeys, and once we got to see the guinea pigs being judged – such a hoot! And of course the sheep, cows, and pigs. The horse shows. And the crafts – beautiful quilts and handmade doll houses and the antiques, plus fabulous cakes and such. Seeing the lumber jack show, then the kids enjoying fishing and archery and the shooting range at the natural resources area. And the rides, of course! And eating our way through the fair, too – grilled corn on the cob and deep fried veggies and cotton candy and funnel cakes and bratwurst – ooh, I’m feeling hungry! 🙂

    Didn’t go this year, but now that you’ve reminded me how much I love it, I’m definitely making it happen next year!

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