Misadventures at the 2014 CA State Fair

2014 was my eighth consecutive year going to the fair (based on my photo archives), and the downhill trend unfortunately continues. I had really high hopes for this year, but when even the hot tub section has phoned it in, you know you’re in for a doozy.

Starting outside the main gate at 10am, we were greeted by a “Jesus Saves” booth and a man wearing a hard hat yelling at us about Jesus, and that people were going to hell. Seriously. I’m all for free speech, but I don’t expect to be screamed at upon arriving at the State Fair for a day of fun. I won’t share any pictures of this guy who was not representative of anything good, gracious, or kind.

Entrance to the Midway
Entrance to the Midway

Entering the fair we were met with the expected vista. The midway to the right (please let it be good this year), the irritating “stand here and let me take your picture” people, and the two golden bears that served as portals to the muscle car display.

Golden Fair Bears
Golden Fair Bears

The booth to get our unlimited ride wristbands wasn’t open yet, so we ventured off to the main exhibit building to see the arts, crafts, and otherwise. Below us, the water area was dammed off on one side and dry on the other side – not sure why there was water in it at all since we’re in a drought. But back to the exhibit building – This is generally one of the areas I enjoy the most, especially the fun and engaging kids art room.

Intel Folsom, in Lego
Intel Folsom, in Lego

So much creativity in this space, from textile arts to sculpture to photography to watercolour to an incredibly detailed lego sculpture of the Intel Folsom campus.

I was especially entertained by the little armed security LEGO man out front of FM3…especially since one of my closest friends is the site security manager, and she doesn’t carry a gun :-).

Kids ArtThere were a lot of fun things to look at in the kids art exhibit, including this masterpiece of delight. I’m always impressed with what young people can do – and glad that there continue to be arts programs both in school and outside of school that promote this type of creativity.

Next building over we found a kids relaxation zone. There was really nothing here except some seating areas, and a little kids theatre where I assume they put on shows during the day so that parents could have a break from their rambunctious kids.

The Tin ManThe most interesting part of this room was the tin man (that you couldn’t even take your picture with because he was blocked off).

Moving on…the bird, rabbit, guinea pig building. Half of what it used to be. There was an entire section of empty cages this year – we joked that it was the invisible rabbit exhibit. But we didn’t laugh. It was sad.

Ooooh Girl
Ooooh Girl

Moving on we were met with some very creative industrial designs – ranging from wood picnic tables to some pretty fabulous fabulousness.

At this point, seeing a Vulcan mannequin with flared wrists was the highlight of the fair.

On to the next building.

Sugar Rush! Candy Crush! Wonka! Gobstopper! Gumball! Fireball! Jelly Bean! Jawbreaker!

Candy Mountain
Candy Mountain

Any guesses? Yep it was the candy pavilion, filled with retro gumball machines, Willy Wonka Golden Tickets, Jelly Bean artwork, and a store where you could buy all manner of sugary treats to keep your kids going for the rest of the day.

Retro Gumball Machines
Retro Gumball Machines
Starry Jelly Bean Night
Starry Jelly Bean Night

So many wonderful delights to see in this room, but alas, the smell of sugar was getting me jittery and it was time to move on to the fine arts.

Fine Art SculptureThis is one of the exhibits I most look forward to every year – because many of the names are recognizable from the KVIE Art Auction. The collection on display this year was sad – not because of the art, but because it was half of what it used to be. There was grand art in here – beautiful paintings, sculptures, and photography – but I’m used to a room FULL of art, and this had entirely too much white space.

I don’t know if fewer artists submitted works this year, or fewer were curated in, but we were in and out of the room in half the time it usually takes. Really disappointing.

Fabulous Textiles
Fabulous Textiles

We rounded out our visit to the exhibition center with a trip through the textile art, which you can see was just full of fabulousness (as it always is). Ladies in their quilting circles were busy at work at new creations – and it’s always a joy watching them hard at work on a beautiful quilt.

Leaving the exhibition center we made our way back to the midway to get our ride wristbands. The attendant at the booth neither spoke or looked at me the entire time, even when I said “Hello” and “Thank You!” – I guess she couldn’t be bothered to stop staring at her cell phone. As a result, she smeared a red stamp all over my wrist – I looked like a stuck pig (and by the way I saw zero pigs this year, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

Next we made our way to the counties exhibits. I was shocked to see the display at the entrance, which I will now present in a series of increasingly sad photographs.

Welcome to Sacramento
Welcome to Sacramento
Where our plants have no water
Where our plants have no water

And our picnic tables are torn apart, with dead centerpieces

And our picnic tables are torn apart, with dead centerpieces

Shocking display. I can’t believe that a ripped up table cloth was ever put into the display, and that someone wasn’t at least giving these plants water. If there’s enough water to have the big fountain running outside, there’s enough water to make sure your Sacramento display isn’t DEAD.

The Farm
The Farm

Moving outside we stopped by The Farm. Generally there’s a lot going on here including newly birthed pigs, tons of livestock for kids to enjoy, thousands of fish in tanks, and a massive plant display. This year, not so much.

Kid's Tractor Pull
Kid’s Tractor Pull

Not only was the flower display half of what it used to be, we saw no livestock exhibits, and the kids area was completely empty with no sign of attention.

Spud Ranch
Spud Ranch

Back we went to the front of the fair to see what sort of food offerings we might enjoy. We browsed an assortment of potato dishes, and quickly passed by anything deep fried (which was 90% of the food court).

Rap Battle
Rap Battle

A loud and completely unorganized rap battle was on the stage – judging by the looks on the faces in the crowd, no one understood what was going on.

We grabbed some lunch (bbq sandwich / polish sausage) and made our way to the midway, hoping that this year perhaps the facilities would be in better condition and actually functional.

I have to say I was impressed that the funhouses this year actually had power. The floor discs turned, the air blowers blew, the slides slid, and the barrels rolled. Compared to last year a marked improvement in the quality of the rides – not the volume, but the quality.

The Big Coaster
The Big Coaster

I will give special mention to the big coaster at the fair – which in the past has required special tickets to ride, but this year accepted the unlimited ride wristband. We rode, we screamed, we smiled.

Bear with Salmon
Bear with Salmon

Next we saw the much talked about, and much photographed and shared on social media, wooden bear with fish sculpture. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions here. Personally I’m impressed that this artisan can see the sculpture inside the wood and carve it out. Very talented, especially with a chainsaw.

Finally, we made our way to the livestock building – filled with goats and cattle. I was disappointed not to see any baby pigs again this year. It’s a highlight to see the baby pigs and then go have BBQ.

Alas, some beautiful goats in this building, including these that reminded me of the aliens from Star Wars who live on Kamino. There’s a family resemblance here.

Kamino Goat
Kamino Goat
Kamino Alien (image from the movie)
Kamino Alien (image from the movie)
Happy Cow
Happy Cow

The cows were massive, and absolutely adorable as they licked their own noses and generally stood around pooping.

Note: I bring up the subject of poop because there was a scat display in one of the buildings, featuring poop from a variety of woodland and farm animals. Great educational opportunity for your kids.

Shaving a Cow
Shaving a Cow

And then it was time to leave. The final picture I took was of a cow being shaved – because I thought the skin colour was really striking, and because it was fun watching it react to being shaved. I don’t know if it’s normal to see the rib cage like that, but none of these animals looked malnourished. I was more worried that farm boy was going to get a swift kick.

And with that the adventure was over…or was it?

We headed off to the main gate to leave, and guess who was still there yelling at people and telling them they were going to hell? Yep, Mr. Jesus Saves with his hard hat was having a very loud argument with a Muslim. Apparently he didn’t understand that “As-salamu alaykum” means “Peace be with you” and he thought the poor guy was a godless terrorist.

We stood there for a few minutes watching more people walk buy and join the yelling match, until we just had to get away from it all. Not a great way to start our day at the fair, or end it.

All in all, another sad offering. I had such high hopes that things were turning around for the better, but alas, this may be my last trip to the fair for a while.

Independence Day

Epipremnum aureum (Wikipedia)
Epipremnum aureum (Wikipedia)

Epipremnum aureum. Common name, Pothos.

Derived from the Latin Vulgate meaning that which grows and spreads like wildfire yet can grow even in dark closets.

This amazing plant has sprung up in every restaurant, every airport, every hospital, everywhere – and the obvious benefits of such a plant are well…obvious!

They add a sparkle of green and yellow to the decor. They easily spread to cover a large area, and can be used to accent not only table tops, but also counters, shelves, bookcases, and in ancient times they even put them on either side of the portcullis of a castle.

But what we’re really concerned with today are the health benefits of the Pothos. As with any chlorophyll rich foliage, the Pothos is responsible for contributing to our ability to live and breathe and thrive and do other things on this planet.

Without the Pothos, oxygen would in fact be a rare commodity, sold on the black market: bottled, canned, spritzed, and vacuum sealed. There would be different quality and purity levels of O2.

For those on a diet, we’d offer Diet-O2 (or O2 Lite if you’re somewhere other than the United States), and if you wanted all the flavour of O2 but not all the gassy aftertaste, we would offer O1.

At some point, we’d start with the marketing gimmicks.

NewO2, CherryO2, Diet CarbonFreeO2, Diet Black Cherry Vanilla O2. All of this would happen were it not for the Pothos.

Obviously we can’t do without this precious plant. Unfortunately they are so abundant that their relative value and cost is next to nothing. Any resident of our planet with $5 can go to their neighborhood Target/Wal-Mart/Kmart (well not Kmart unless you live in some remote location where they haven’t gone out of business) and pick up a Pothos. Just imagine if we suddenly had only a finite supply of them left, or if they only grew in one remote sector of the world.

They’d become as valuable as diamonds.

Soon you could only buy them at DeBeers Exotic Pothos Emporium, but you would have to get on a waiting list, and the only way to get on the waiting list would be to call a special phone number at a special time, and hope to not get a busy signal. Assuming you got through, then assuming you got on the waiting list, you would still have to pass a rigorous Pothos Ownership Operating Process (POOP). Not only is there a written exam, but also an oral exam, home inspection, and a requirement to sign a waiver allowing DeBeers to reclaim the plant in the case of neglect, and also allowing for periodic home re-evaluations.

There are probably those of you out there who think “I’m safe. I already have several Pothos at my house, so I don’t ever have to worry.”

Unfortunately, George W. Bush signed an executive order before he left office, authorizing the military to enter any personal property and seize any live Pothos on the premises. The law is actually so all-encompassing that they can seize dead Pothos as well, or force you to search your own garbage for any that you may have thrown away.

No one will be safe from the threat of Pothos extinction.

Well, except for the very very rich. Anyone making over $500,000 a year is exempt from the new law of course. Heaven forbid we deprive the rich from their double half-caf, half-decaf O2 with a twist of lime (oooh I’ll have a twist of lime too!).

Besides, the middle class should just learn to be happy with the middle class Starbucks O2 Au Lait right? For those of you who aren’t bilingual, Au Lait means with milk. That’s French. Which means that if you travelled to France and wanted to have some O2 with milk, you’d have to say “Au Lait” instead of “with milk” otherwise they wouldn’t understand you, because no one in France is bilingual. Be careful about using this term in other countries, such as Mexico or Spain, or they might send a bull charging after you, because Au Lait is surprisingly similar in sound to O’le! (I learned this the hard way.)

Tour Eiffel (Wikipedia)
Tour Eiffel (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, there are no Pothos in France, so I don’t know why anyone would go there anyway. Except maybe to see La Toure Eiffel, which means Eiffel Tower. But you can see pictures of that online, so again I ask, what’s the point? I’d much rather go somewhere and see something that no one has ever seen or taken a picture of.

Maybe there’s a remote cave in the middle of a vast line of underground caverns that maybe hasn’t even been discovered, and maybe contains a vast cache of Pothos growing wildly and abundantly, creating so much O2 that if it ever escaped from the cave it would throw off the balance of the entire global O2 market sending O2 stocks crashing down and ensuring quality breathing air for anyone on our planet, turning billionaires and other rich folks into ordinary middle class citizens within minutes. (this reminds me of the Great Chopsticks Incident of 2004)

It could happen…

* This commentary is based on the Award-Winning Best-Selling Novel by the same author, and in no way supports or defames the holiday of Independence Day, because it has absolutely nothing to do with it.