So, it’s fair time again in Texas. Remember, when you were a kid and that actually excited you. Now all I can think about is the crowds, the overpriced parking and beer, and hoping not to run into certain people at the concerts. If I see those people, my name is Bobby and I don’t know who that Brad fellow is. I remember when we used to break our necks to get out of football practice early in high school so that we could go to the fair. It was our Oz. Girls, fried food, carnival rides, carnies, rodeo, loud music, and cousins old enough to buy us beer. Our local fair has been the same since I was a little kid. They’ve upgraded some of the facilities but it’s laid out just the same, same rides, same exhibits, same food, and same smell.
As a child I distinctly remember riding to the fair with my parents as we jammed John Anderson’s “Swingin’ “ on our way to see The Judds. This was back when Wynona was skinny and somewhat attractive. And as I was pimped out in my wranglers, western shirt, and straw cowboy hat, I was ready to impress. Sadly, being on my dad’s shoulders, young Wynona didn’t invite 6 yr old Brad on her bus.
I also remember one year when the late, great Gary Stewart performed or I should rather say attempted to perform. We were part of a packed house, eagerly anticipating Mr. Stewart’s honky tonk warble heartache. My sister had turned me onto him when I was just in 8th grade and Gary had ridden shotgun on many of our high school hi jinx. So, needless to say we were pumped to see the legend live. The radio DJ’s came out and did their cheesy jokes and announcements before their even cheesier Michael Buffer impersonation with “WACO, TEXAS…are you ready to rumble with Gary Stewart?” Little did I know that meant literally. Gary’s band was in place and began the opening notes to “Out of Hand” and they played the intro a few times before a gangly, skinny tramp of a man stumbled onstage, guitar in hand. He reached the mic stand and attempted to plug his guitar in, kicked the monitor, turned for an invisible bar stool to prop himself up on and then proceeded to fall into the first rows of the audience. He had passed out onstage. This was like witnessing Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree. Show over, and sadly the other two times I saw Gary Stewart the results weren’t much better. God Bless Gary Stewart!
There was also 1999 when a young, local upstart named Pat Green performed under the big top. I clearly remember that as the moment I realized Pat was going to be huge. I’d seen him play several times prior to that night and be one of the few in the crowd. Yet, here I was on this night surrounded by thousands and people were singing along to even the songs I didn’t care for like “1-900 Lover”. The Live at Billy Bob’s phenomenon had begun, as had my fondness for Yellow Belly’s aka Coors Original. My friend’s dad had chaperoned us, I guess you could say, and was priming us with trips to the beer stand, 1 for him, 2 for us. Now, this year, my favorite band, the band I’ve worked for, the band I’ve promoted, the band I used to go see and be the only person there besides Blam-O is headlining a night at the fair. A tribute to the Randy Rogers Band to have come so far.
I digress, I haven’t talked about the rides yet. The rides have been the same every year. Some formation or variation of things like Zipper, Himalaya, Gravitron, the Power and the Klondike have wowed generations. I’m not a big fan of the rides at the fair. It’s stereotypical but true that they are assembled by carnies that are on days-long meth binges and just this side of minimum wage. Allegedly. One time while waiting in line for the Zipper, I saw an empty car fly off the hinges and land on the ground about 20 feet away from me. Needless to say, I got out of line and the ride was “closed for repairs”. My most queasy ride experience at a fair has to do with the Gravitron. We got there early, right out of football practice (natch!) and there were no lines for any of the rides. So, we ponied up for an armband, grabbed a corndog because I could tell and headed for the Gravitron like the idiots we were. After scarfing down our meal we hopped aboard. There were four of us. The ride begins and it’s as thrilling as it ever was, we’re flipping upside down, floating, having a great time. It shuts down, we start to exit and the carney shouts “Ain’t no line, y ‘all go again.” So we repeat the cycle, except this time it was not as joyous. We repeated this cycle four times. I’ve never been so dizzy or sick in my life. I felt like a young child must feel after a ride on the Ferris Wheel at Neverland.
I don’t have enough time to devote to the rodeos, pig/goat showings, picnic tables, bbq pits and arts/crafts. However, those things can be found at fairs as well and our just as full of stories. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the State Fair in Dallas or the Podunk Fair in east/west Texas, fairs are a weird cross section of people. Rich ranchers, poor punks and careless kids all mixed into a light show, tent filled extravaganza that reeks of cow manure and crisp fall air. Feel free to use the comments section of this article to share your favorite fair experiences.
-I hold firm in my belief that anything too far east or west of the I-35 corridor is hell. I kid, I kid my east and west Texans!
-My favorite writer is Bill Simmons. Check him out on ESPN.com’s Page 2. The man is a genius and he also has a book out titled Now I Can Die In Peace.
-Speaking of rodeos, wouldn’t it be interesting if for one night the girls and the guys switched events. The barrel races do all the guy events and some bullriders, calf ropers and steer wrestlers have to race around barrels. And just to add some excitement you could make the clowns dwarves.
-Cupid’s been busy lately, tons of weddings happening this summer. Gonna be expensive. I need to win the lotto…or open a tuxedo rental place.
-God Bless Jason Boland.
-Check out Dane Cook. Funny for the most part. I heard of him several years ago, but he’s now hit the mainstream and is selling tons of cd’s and headlining Madison Square Garden. http://www.danecook.com/
–This month’s recommended movie is: Garden State starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. It’s a dark comedy that involves some of the most bizarre characters you’ll encounter not in a Tarrantino flick. It was written and directed by Braff and is definitely worth seeing.
–This month’s recommended album is: Actually 2 EP’s by a band called Towne Adams. Great stuff. If you dig Fastball, Semisonic, Waking Norman, as well as stuff like Shooter’s record or a little Phil Pritchett, please pick up or check out these EP’s. They’re available for download at the band’s website here: www.towneadams.com/music.php
My favorite track is Beautiful Barfly but I dig them all.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” –Mark Twain