Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Boy “Loves” Fair Carousel Despite Age

I leaned against the gray metal fence surrounding Arlington County Fair’s carousel in the midway. It was last Sunday and hot-but-not-terrible, yet the place I chose to stand allowed me to view my kids on “Silver” and “Buttercup”—names they chose—while being in the shade of the carousel’s tented top.

A couple horses behind my children sat a boy in blue-and-white striped gabardine shorts who strummed a little air guitar to the carousel music when the sound began but the ride hadn’t.

We caught each other’s eyes, and the boy, he may have been 11 or 12, said, “Despite my age, I love this ride.”

[This is a very grainy, grainy movie of the carousel--sorry, my cell phone movie camera is for slow, slow moving images only! --ST]

Yeah, I love the Arlington County Fair.

Two vendors, though, told me sales were a little down. One ran the sausage hut and said he was a little disappointed in sales this year. The other was my friend Dan Redmond who sells Usborne books and had a booth inside the Thomas Jefferson Center. He sold about half of what he expected, he said.

Even though I love the fair, generally, I get frustrated with the overpriced rides and food. I must say, having the county’s T.E.A.M. program running free bouncy houses was key. (T.E.A.M. gives teens 13 to 17 opportunities to operate a small bouncy house entertainment business.) My kids loved bouncing through the different houses. And the price was right.

I’m a tightwad, I must say, and though I have never seen a carny driving a ’52 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupe, I have often thought their carnival rides are highly overpriced. But maybe they aren’t.

In the interest of full-disclosure, the family and I hit “Burro Days” in Fairplay Colorado in July. It shares much of the staples of a fair with Arlington (without the humidity): vendors, rides, funnel cakes—all of it overpriced, but fun. Still, once I have done one fair, I become a bit faired-out.

The centerpieces of their town festival are llama races on Saturday and burro races on Sunday. We missed the llama race this year, but on Sunday we watched their burro race, “Get Yur Ass Up the Pass,” a re-creation of the gold rush route miners took up Mosquito Pass more than a century ago. The burros’ packs are loaded with panning and mining equipment and the runners lead their donkeys (or the other way ‘round at times). Runners never ride, and the race, starting at about 10,000 feet in downtown Fairplay, rises 3,000 feet into Mosquito Pass.

Racers take one of two paths, the 15-mile “short” course or the full 29-mile run. Two years ago I met a woman who was using this race to prepare for a marathon!

This year marked the slowest finishing time in the history of the long course (which began with 1973’s race) the Fairplay Flume reported. Here’s the first 45 seconds or so of the race:


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