Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fair Enough

Made the yearly trip to the Wisconsin State Fair a week ago. Great fair . . . better than ever. We chose a good day – two got in for the price of one. Mobs of people already there at noon, probably in anticipation of the Main Stage show at 7:30 featuring Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and Candy Coburn. You may not know Big & Rich, but you have certainly heard of its signature song, Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy).

Yeah, I haven’t heard of the group or the song, either. We didn’t stick around for the Big Evening Show, anyway.

The fair has many of the same attractions that I remember from 40 years ago. Some things shouldn’t change. The animal barns are all still there, completely open to the public. The animals look good, even the hogs, most of which were sprawled out on clean straw with their eyes closed. The Percherons were, as always, magnificent, well-muscled and proud, clearly aware of their origins as battle mounts in the Middle Ages. And how can there be so many different kinds of rabbits?

The super-sized cream puff line was churning out cream puffs full tilt, and fair-goers were buying them by the half-dozen. I abstained . . . way too difficult to keep the powdered sugar and spewed filling off the Tommy Bahama.

But some things have changed, though. They serve wine at the fair now . . . some places offer two whites and two reds. They have a special tent for micro-brewed beer. There are fewer stands to get a bratwurst, it seems like. Too bad. It’s a sensible meal – only 29 grams of fat and 900 mgs of sodium.

There is the brand new Machine Shed Restaurant, which boasts Real Food, Real People and Real Memories! The place advertises the “best breakfast in America” and serves up All You Can Eat Pancakes with 4 New Varieties! Plus Chocolate Covered Bacon on a Stick!

And the bathrooms are clean enough to eat a cream puff in. They have washroom attendants up there in West Allis now, with tip baskets by the exits. The powers that be latched onto an idea Europeans have understood for generations – a little stimulus money will keep those attendants hopping.

But the dominant impression you get strolling around the fairgrounds is one of large people eating substantial servings of cheese and washing it down with lots of beer.

Did you know that in 1841, Mrs. Anne Pickett made history when she established Wisconsin's first cottage industry cheese factory using milk from neighbors' cows? That’s according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Today, the milk marketing folks tell us, 15,000 dairy farms, with over 1.2 million cows produce an average of 18,850 pounds of milk each per year, and cheese makers use close to 90 percent of this milk to produce cheese at 115 plants. The result is over 2.4 billion pounds of Wisconsin cheese each year, much of which is consumed at the Wisconsin State Fair.

So Wisconsin really is the cheese capital of America, and the residents are entitled to wear those cheesehead hats that drive Chicago Bears fans crazy. (By the way, visit www.chessehead.com to find all of the latest in cheesehead gadgetry, from a 15 buck cheesehead fez to a ten dollar pair of cheesehead hanging dice that dangle from your rear view mirror. . .)

Wisconsin, it turns out, is also way up there -- numero uno, in fact – in several areas of alcohol consumption. According to statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and StateHealthFacts.com, Wisconsin is first in the whole great U. S. of A. in the percentage of its citizen who engage in binge drinking (21.8%), casual drinking (67.8%), and heavy drinking (7.4%).

You probably wouldn’t be surprised at how great a cheesehead fez looks after eight or nine cold ones.

I had a dream last night that I got to the exit of the Wisconsin State fairgrounds, and the coppers made me take a breathalyzer test. When I didn’t register, they sent me back inside to drink some more.

“Great,” I gurgled to myself. “I can buy some more cheese curds.”


Kristen said...

I thought you didn't remember your dreams very often! Interesting one you had there...thanks for sharing the vivid images of the State Fair. Good ol' memories...

Jill said...

Yes the fair was great fun and I bet you loved watching me make a mess of myself while I devoured that cream puff. It was a grand old time. Let go again next year!