Tag Archives: Ohio State Fair

Geek love in real life

I read Geek Love by Catherine Dunn when I was in my mid-20s — a novel rich with wicked and sympathetic details about a family of carnival geeks and the social pecking order of people who market physical differences or deformities as entertainment.

I had seen the sideshow tents on the midway of the Ohio State Fair since I was a little girl, but never ventured in. The first time I decided to pay the admission so I could be an armchair anthropologist at the so-called “freak show” – shortly after reading Dunn’s novel in the mid-1990s – I found only sword-swallowers, characters with a few corny costumes and some poor optical illusions. I was told that “political correctness” (a term that I loathe) had driven the traditional sideshow characters into obscurity. Geek love had supposedly become something only seen through a Diane Arbus camera lens to the past, even as the value of “Outsider art” was skyrocketing.

So I was surprised when Declan and I were walking into the Midway hell portion of the fair last week and a carnival caller yelled out for us to watch “the fire-eating Pygmy King.” Wasn’t “Pygmy” a pejorative term? Was “king” supposed to mitigate that? And weren’t these shows the domain of illusionists and heavily tattooed self-mutilators who like to shove hooks and nails into themselves now? (I cannot stand to watch those things, by the way.)

So we stood there in the walkway and watched the “Pygmy King” eat some fire and then guzzle a bottle of Pepto while the caller heralded the other “wonders” inside of the tent, like hirsute and two-headed women. It was an evening special – only $2 for the show. And if I hadn’t had Declan with me, I would have gone right in.

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Spongebob Scarepants and friends

The theme for scarecrow competitors at the Ohio State Fair this year was Cartoon Characters:

(If you couldn’t tell, that’s Betty Boop below the Spongebob picture. The bottom pictures Mr. Scarepants, Shaggy & Scooby Doo, Jack Skellington and Woody from Toy Story. There was a Speed Racer there too.)

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Dear Ohio butter Mt. Rushmore,

You are so big and buttery, with your eight heads of Buckeye presidents.

You are like Mt. Rushmore, if it were in Ohio, except that Mt. Rushmore is in South Dakota, and none of the presidents that are carved into its rocky face are from South Dakota. You are simply the Mt. Rushmore of Ohio presidents, carved in dairy. You are about 2,000 pounds (one ton) and it took 370 hours to make you.

You are the best butter sculpture I have ever seen. The joys of butter John Glenn and butter Buster Douglas were easily surpassed in your presence.

I could just spread you on corn. Or eat you with steamed artichokes.

I love Americana.

(More Ohio State Fair pictures to come. Boy, I hit the wacky jackpot this year…)

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