Well, the Indiana State Fair is over officially this Sunday, but for me it is over today. I have spent about five days at the Fair, which has been my usual status for the last five years or so. No…I am not involved with 4-H, I have not turned into a carnival worker, and I don’t do those cheesy demonstrations of cookware at the Expo Hall.
Nope. I have been working in the Indiana Pork Producers Pork Tent. Oh…I hear the giggling. That weight gain I’ve been sporting does not make one a candidate for this job. Actually, I volunteer with my church and we serve wonderful pork chops, pulled pork barbecue, pork burgers—and fun. I know you are salivating as you read this. I mean, come on….there is NOTHING BETTER than State Fair Food. Elephant ears, corn on the cob, funnel cakes, cotton candy, rib-eye sandwiches, and that is just what I had for dinner. We serve up applesauce, chips, and a slice of bread with our chops. How is it, that even applesauce has a delicious flavor at the Fair?
I’ve gotta tell ya though…I feel a bit guilty when I go into the swine barn and “ooh and aahh” over the piglets and then put on my apron and cap and sell pulled pork. My nightmare is that the “World’s Biggest Boar” is going to come over to me, “The World’s Biggest Bore” and serve me up on a bun with chips and applesauce.
But I love working at the Fair. The connections with seeing old friends—like the young people who run the Pork Tent, and making new ones is just the essence of Hoosier Hospitality. And what fun to experience ‘FaceBook Live’ as you constantly see folks you know. It is like an odd family reunion among fried pickles and the sounds from the Midway.
I have a tradition with my oldest granddaughter, in that I take her to the Indiana State Fair for her birthday in August. We’ve done it for five years or so. This year we celebrated her thirteenth by riding the ‘Viking Ship’ thirteen times. What a blast! We always hurried to get that last seat because it truly takes one’s stomach away on that downward arc. Feeling queasy, are ya? Too much pork from that last paragraph!
But another perk at working the Fair are the animals! What job is there that, when you take a break, you can go love on miniature donkeys or marvel at huge Percheons? Or see a lamb one day old? I am in seventh heaven as I duck out of the pork tent to hurry over to see newly-sheared sheep or lovely Holsteins. It is like Noah’s Ark meets Sex in the City. Okay…maybe not. But the clash of urban and farm life is an eclectic mix and right smack dab in the middle of Indianapolis! Oh you want more?? Tractors. Harness racing. Chickens hatching and cricket spitting. Umm not together. You can even fish at the DNR building (if you don’t know what that stands for you won’t find the place). Heck, our fair even has a Lactation Station. Heifers, eat your hearts out. I was talking to the cows…
Sigh. But my Fair is over for this year. No more shuttle rides (not the NASA kind), eating my way through the day, talking non-stop to any person with whom I make eye contact. No more Viking Ship. The Fair is a respite from reality. City and farm, young and old, hooves and poultry all gather for a celebration of cultures and creatures. And we learn a little bit and make a lot of memories. We scream on the Midway rides, and watch in awed silence as a cow gives birth to a calf. And youngsters hold their breaths as the judges pass out ribbons to the 4-H competitors.
This time next year I’ll hopefully be at the Pork Tent dishing up some of those chops and burgers. And taking in all the sights and sounds that the State Fair delivers. Oh…if you don’t find me just look in one of the barns. Probably will be fussing over those miniature donkeys and such.
But please don’t tell the residents of the swine barn where I work. I may be in hog heaven but I truly don’t want them to know I am serving up last year’s 4-H winner. Kinda makes that old nursery rhyme, “this little piggy went to market…” a bit too real.
Hmmm. Maybe I should switch to cooking up those Fried Twinkies. You won’t find those in a barn.