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Stuff Oklahomans Like: Multiple “State” Fairs

4:14 AM EST on February 17, 2010

There are three kinds of people who go to the State Fair:

1. People who are white trash
2. People who like to feel superior about themselves by people watching white trash
3. People who like corn dogs

I probably fall into all three categories, which is probably why I love The Great State Fair of Oklahoma®.  Where else can you spend the equivalent of a fine steak dinner on deep fried garbage and walk out hungry?  Where else does a chain-smoking clown make fun of your hair (and/or lack thereof) as you lob weighted baseballs at a tiny bulls-eye several feet above your head?  Where else do you gladly fork over five dollars while standing in manure for a soft-serve ice cream cone just because you can watch cows being milked in the adjacent building?

Nowhere, that's where.

In Oklahoma, the Fair is so popular that calling it a "state fair" is a misnomer.  Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa host a yearly event that claims that title.  One location cannot hold all of the trashy, stereotype affirming activities that are demanded.

When I was a kid, the Fair was one of the highlights of the year.  All the kids, at least those in the public schools, would be given free passes in class, so then we could coax our parents into taking us and buying us turns on unsafe amusement park rides or attempt to win us cheap stuffed animals by attempting to get a ping pong ball to rest on the open mouth of beer bottles glued to a pallet.  If our parents were really cool, they would let us go into the "freak booths" to witness taxidermied horses with two heads.  (It wasn't until I just typed this sentence that it occurred to me the horse may not have had two heads when it actually breathed.) 

Of course, the best part was being surrounded by the colorful people that roam the state of Oklahoma.  By "colorful," I mean trashy.  There is a reason the Fair has a reputation for being mullet central.  It was once the capitol for the poor and toothless to throw down with the drunk and brainless and pick up t-shirts with classless slogans.

I say "was" because in my adult life, the Fair has cleaned up.  At some point while I was in college, a new executive director was appointed to the Fair commission and this person realized that the wealthy were shying away from the fairgrounds.  The root cause was pretty easy to determine.  Wealthy families in Nichols Hills and Edmond did not want to be surrounded by trailer park crowds.  If their horizons were to be broadened, the poorest they wanted to be around was the middle class"¦maybe some well-to-do farmers.

So, the director raised the prices for admission.  They also implemented higher standards for the exhibitors and shut down the monorail because people were riding on it in more than one way (if you get my drift).  Now the crowds are gone and the exhibition halls are full of people wanting to sell me high end goods rather than crappy (but funny) trinkets.  Supposedly, the Tulsa committee has made similar tweaks in recent years.

But, as long as they keep letting the Poncho Dog vendors in, I will keep going.

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