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North Carolina State Fair

North Carolina State Fair

Wave Swinger .JPG

First, parking will take a while. So, while you’re doing it, you and your mom (who you call mama, which is just how some people talk and that’s fine) can go over all the rules for what to do if you get lost. If you’re anything like me, you’re already familiar with the rules because maybe you had an experience like the one I had at Wal-Mart with the witch’s eyeballs, when it took mom almost an hour to find me and that is why we have never been back there since.

But you won’t want to have an incident like that at the State Fair because for one thing it is what my mom calls traumatizing and for a second thing, you would never ever want to go back to the State Fair ever again, and that would be a very sad thing. This is why, after you’re clear on what to do if you get lost, you’ll want to ask your mom or your mama the rules on how not to get lost in the first place. “Pretend you’re a car behind one of those big Mac Tracks and I'm its rearview mirror," your mama might say. Meaning, if you can’t see her, there’s a problem. I would add to that, always hold her hand.

Second, everything at the fair is bright lit and deep-fried. You can smell the oil in the air. My mom says it's from the grease traps where they fry the Oreos and the Twinkies and the Bloomin’ Onions, which she also says are like a beautiful flower with a million calories inside every petal. Which sounds kind of magical and tastes that way, too. You can also eat a turkey leg the size of your head, but it really looks like a turkey leg, like from an actual turkey and for that reason, I don’t recommend it as your one treat that your mama will probably allow you. A funnel cake is always a safe bet, Sadie. Especially if you can find a booth that will add sprinkles on top of the powdered sugar.

Third, don’t look too close at anything. Like for example,  the machinery of the fair rides, the cogs and the wheels and the joints that hold them all together. Those cogs and wheels and joints are all gummed up with a black sort of oil – maybe the same kind they use to fry the fried things – and also sometimes the person who lets you on the ride and locks the bar down over your lap will smell funny and also have metal things sticking out of his lips and ears and nose and while I think your mama would agree with my mom that it’s not nice to judge people on their appearance, it’s hard not to wonder, like my mom did, out loud, if all that metal isn’t somehow affecting a person’s judgment. Other things not to look to closely at: the largest pig or the smallest woman in the world, the trash cans, the bunny barn. I would not recommend the bunny barn at all, in fact, unless you like being stared at by billions of red beady eyes.

Fourth and finally, your mama will probably be on a budget which means you will have to choose your rides carefully. My mom says if you haven’t done the Ferris Wheel then you haven’t really been to the fair, which of course isn’t really true because if you’ve been there you’ve been there, but my mom is from Chicago where the Ferris Wheel was invented, so she has strong feelings. One year, my mom and I got those Christmas lights that are connected all together in a big web so that instead of wrapping a string of lights around the tree you just throw the web of lights over it and plug it in. When you’re at the top of the Ferris Wheel at night, the lights look like they are stretched over the city just like that – like a big hand came and tossed a Christmas light web over it and like that same big hand could cinch the edges of the bag together and pull everything back up – the buildings and the streets and all – into a brightly lit sack. And that thought makes the Ferris Wheel feel extra tilty and swoony. Or, as my mom says, precarious.

There are lots of other ride choices: the Sizzler and the Zipper and the Orbiter and the Tornado. But my all time very favorite ride is the Wave Swinger, partly because it looks old fashioned – just a bunch of swings hanging from a tilt-a-wheel – but also because of the way it makes you feel like you are flying above a magical world. And the best thing about all magical worlds is that there are rules you will never know and mysteries you will never understand, which means that getting lost there would be that much scarier than getting lost in the real world. But it’s the not knowing, too, that makes the world so very, very beautiful and also so very unlike anything else you have ever known before.  

Window Co. (North Roxboro Road)

Window Co. (North Roxboro Road)

Durham County Detention Facility

Durham County Detention Facility