The third week of August brought us the Lane County Fair, suitable located at the Lane County Fairgrounds. The Fair runs from Wednesday to Sunday, and having a free Friday, Beth and I went along, arriving about half an hour after it opened.
That is to say we arrived at the front gate in our car. Unfortunately the main car park was already full, so we drove round the corner towards the overflow carpark (and a potential $5 fee), but found an empty space on Jefferson Street before we got there. This was probably the best possible result for us, and when we left all the roadside spaces around were filled but we were able to drive away easily.
Onto the gate on foot, a rapidly lengthening queue, and a $9 entry fee (each). The annual summer fair on Ealing Common has in recent years started charging just to get in, so this was not entirely unexpected, though last April I was in Cherbourg in Normandy and had a very pleasant wander round a French Fair with no entry charge. I suspect the French, who are very good at this sort of thing, simply said an en masse "Non", and the idea was dropped. The advantage is it keeps out the riff-raff and potential trouble makers.
We had brought a packed lunch, and I'd brought a small cool bag to keep my sodas cold. Beth spotted a sign on the side of the ticket booth saying, amongst other negatives, "No Coolers", so I stuffed it into my backpack, and got through unchallenged. The reason for no coolers, of course, is to force you to buy cold drinks at inflated prices.
On to the Fair then. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was (mostly) a Fair much as we have been to in England. Beth and I don't "do" fairground rides, as we both suffer from motion sickness, though we like to watch other people on the rides and proceeded to do so. Some of the gentler rides might have been OK, such as the Ferris Wheel pictured above, but here we hit the next snag. Apart from the expected queue for each ride, there was also a long queue for the tickets for the rides. The system is that you buy a roll of tickets (at 75 cents each) before you start, and use those tickets for each ride, which mostly cost six tickets each (thus $4.50 a ride). You can buy these ride tickets online beforehand, but we hadn't. Not keen on joining yet another queue, we decided to skip this queue and just enjoy watching.
In addition to the rides there were various booths with the usual nearly-impossible games offering small prizes. Basketball with a smaller than regulation hoop, burst the balloon with a dart, throw the 9" hoop over the 10" square box, that sort of thing. These also required several tickets. There were automatic ticket machines available as well as the main ticket booth, but we didn't feel the need to try these games so we passed onto the food booths. I bought and ate some candy floss, but we had brought our own lunch to avoid paying $8.50 for a burger and fries, so again our money mostly stayed firmly in our pockets.
In addition to the temporary booths and rides, the Fairgrounds has a number of permanent buildings, and several of these contained animals on show. The Lane County Fair, like the Royal County of Berkshire Show at the Newbury Showground (UK), is the occasion when people bring their sheep, goats, pigeons and other birds, horses and cows to be shown and win rosettes. We viewed the sheep and goats, and saw some chicks hatching in an incubator. Ditto vegetables, and there was a display of quilts and other fabric crafts which we enjoyed. Another hall held various booths selling jewellery, replacement windows, the ultimate glue, etc. but in semi-darkness because many of the ceiling lights had failed, and there was next to no natural light beyond the atrium.
We wandered round the trade stalls, looked at displays fruit and vegetables, voting for our favorite display and comparing the offerings unfavourably with our own garden fare, and eventually went outside to eat our packed lunches. Then we tried to go back in to the Candy and Baking Hall, but by now the building's lights had failed completely and the hall was temporarily closed.
Thus thwarted, we looked at each other and decided to call it a day. We'd been at the show for several hours, and though it was open until 11pm, we didn't bother to get our hands stamped for possible re-entry. Instead we headed home via Wal-Mart so we could stock up on a few essentials and luxuries using our discount cards.
All in all it was interesting, but probably not something we'll repeat next year. Apart from our entry fee we spent a grand total of $3.50 between us, less than the cost of one ride for one person, but would have spent more if there was something worth spending it on.
Next weekend there is the State Fair at Salem, and we had intended to go to that too with Beth's grandmother who is coming to visit, but it's an hour's drive Each way for more of the same, so chances are we'll give it a miss.