When everyone tried to go through the “Haunted Pirate” dark ride, Kim’s car started shooting sparks and flames out the back like an old zip cord motorcycle. Lauren and Ashley screamed (a lot) and told Kim to move her hair.
Then Lauren turned to me, wisely stationed on the ground, and shrieked, “I survived the friggin’ Wheel of Death, now I’m gonna die in this crappy haunted house.”
The clueless, anti-svelte and pungent with rainwater and mud attendant tried to push them up the first hill and failed. He then called his identical looking (and smelling) friend from another ride to help. Eventually they gave up and let the passengers walk off while they grunted and strained to hold the car from rolling down onto them. A sane, logical crowd would have shut down the ride. However, someone higher in authority (and even more disheveled looking) showed up to man the ride while the goofball twins pushed Lauren and Ashley all the way through the (and this may not be the right word) “attraction.” During their ride they saw…
Nothing! Because (duh) it was shorted out. Chrissy was allowed the added bonus thrill of having to pull herself and Joey through most of the ride in order to escape, as they just made it inside when it powered down, and the Fair ran out of extra attendants for manual labor.
The famous Reithoffer traveling “ten in ones” and sideshows of yesteryear were already long gone. But they still supplied a couple trailers hearkening back to those days on the midway.
We decided we would not have a complete life without seeing “Angel the Amazing Snake Girl”. The non-athlete guy out front didn’t seem to care. Not only didn’t he try to draw a crowd, but he sat there reading a book ignoring us, and wouldn’t let us in without exact change.
Sadly, he must have been sick the day in Carny U. where they teach that the Barker is the real entertainment the marks are paying for at a sideshow.
Finally, we ventured up the steps full of soon to be shattered anticipation. I suppose the painted side of the trailer did say, “The head of a beautiful girl, and the body of a snake” and made no claims about the two of them being connected in any way, shape of form.
But when we saw this pretty young woman’s face sticking through the top of a table, with a cheesy mirror under it to make the table top look thin, and what looked like a large wooden sausage coiled around her head, we were pretty much speechless. Someone asked her to move around, but she said she was tired. No doubt thinking, “of my lot in life,” to complete the sentence.
“Great Gig,” I said trying to be enthusiastic, throwing in a big thumbs up to punctuate my earnestness.
“Yeah...thanks,” she answered, looking completely aware of her severe need for career counseling.
As we walked back, I was stopped in my tracks by a pair of pretty eyes in a snack booth. As they were in a girl’s head, and not in a jar on the counter, I didn’t run away in horror. Since my brain was shut down due a lifelong weakness for nice eyes, I was startled when a guy asked “Can I help you?”
“Nachos,” I cleverly replied, not quite registering that I wasn’t having a conversation with the person I was focusing on.
I can only assume that my stomach had taken control while my brain was being sparkled into unconsciousness, because there is no way I would have consciously made this order in a location with the appearance that “Frito’s” are considered authentic Mexican cuisine. He then passed my order to some big Famer Ed looking guy in the back. The master chef proceeded to take the nachos with the size and texture of poker chips, in ones and twos, and arrange then in the tray like in was a bouquet for his grandmother’s funeral. Finally, he was done, and then placed a single molecule of cheese in the cup, and continued at this pace till he deemed it complete.
I was making some attempt to enjoy this soggy, bland, food like snack when my sister grabbed my arm yelling, “You have to see this, otherwise you won’t believe me!” She then dragged me though a craft barn. At the other end was a clown (an official one, not another ride attendant pushing someone.) just about eligible for Medicare.
He was tormenting little children and blowing up balloons with a live goat. Now, I know it was just some bad sleight of hand covering a pump in his sleeve, but I don’t think this animal could have looked less happy if the clown was blowing up the balloons for real, using a random orifice of the goat each time. Having definitely seen EVERYTHING (including far more rain soaked livestock than any human being should see, or smell in a lifetime) we drove back to the cabins.
The tales of our return should have dissuaded anyone else from trying to recapture childhood memories. But this is Up the Lake people we’re talking about here. Traditionally putting ourselves in to ridiculous situations is our mission statement.
When Nick (Chrissy and Joe’s brother, and the leader of our childhood band of Fair going hooligans) came up Friday night, he was crushed that he was unable to join our nostalgic near death experiences. We sallied forth yet again on Saturday morning, when Nick, Chrissy, her baby, and Kim and I headed back for round two of the fair.
The drive up was made much more enjoyable because Nick was driving Chrissy’s car. Her car had an oddly placed horn button, or at least oddly placed based on Nick’s normal driving style. He’d honk it accidentally every five miles or so, prompting us all to wave at some imaginary friend at the side of the road.
Up the Lake people always go that extra mile so the locals wouldn’t think we was “rude city folk.”
It took forever to get past the town’s trademark only stoplight that indicated the Fair was near.
This was, because of the insanely huge Saturday Fair crowds. It was this adventure that prevented any future visit on a weekend.
What may have been Rhinebeck’s only police man was at Rhinebeck’s only stoplight trying to help direct traffic, helping us to eventually reach the Row Nazis, who parked us on a soccer field somewhere just outside of Schenectady. Once we finally reached the fairgrounds, we were stunned by the mob. Every game hunter, farmhand, and middle-aged biker between Albany and New York City was putting in an appearance.
We squeezed through for a quick stint at the Midway to duck out of a sudden cloudburst. Shattered that he missed the excitement of Angel the Snake Girl, Nick paid for admission to the trailer featuring “The World’s Smallest Woman.”
“Yup...She’s small” was the feedback we got from our crack reporter.
We played some water race games to win stuffed animals for the baby (and one for Kim who beat the snot out of me with her big ring when she lost by an inch - sheesh!)
After five years of engineering school following an excessively geeky high school career, I had a first time experience: two different female attendants tried to “sweet talk” me into trying to violate the laws of physics and probability to win some crap.
However one was just under fifteen years old, and the other was just under the mass of Jupiter’s fifth moon (and missing many teeth as an added bonus) allowing me to continue on my merry way.
For a while we were staying dry at the booth with the best odds on the strip. Only four two-tone numbers, a one in eight shot of winning! The two poor souls in the booth would call people over and excitedly shout:
“Just pick a number and color, if it comes up you win.”
“What’s the prize?” the interested, almost customer would ask.
“A live lizard” they would cheerily reply.
Then the person would go, “ugh” and leave.
It looked like they hadn’t spun the wheel in days.
With those crowds all there really was to do was eat, and my, were there large portions.
Nick had a bloomin’ onion the size of a large sunflower.
I got a cinnamon coated pretzel that could have given the entire city of Buenos Aries a sugar rush for the month of September.
And Kim got a squeeze bottle of lemonade made with several bushels of lemons and enough water to irrigate the entire Tigris Euphrates river valley.
On our way out we saw two odd fellows.
Well, to be honest, we saw scores of odd fellows, odd ladies, odd children, and odd animals.
However, we saw two specific odd fellows that worked there.
One was an Elvis impersonator, who had the voice down acceptably but looked like the picture on the cover of the “Weekly World News: Elvis is Alive” issue. (Lord, I miss that paper.)
The other one was a guy who looked on the high side of a century and a half, and wore a rainbow wig that was several decades older than he was. He sold bird whistles and rubber bugs and snakes. As he appeared identical to the way we remembered him as kids (with added wear and tear on the wig, of course) years before, I could only assume that he was a very low powered form of the undead, who slowly sucked away people's souls by selling their children loud and aggravating toys.
Was the Fair the same thrill and fun packed day of excitement I remembered from my childhood years?
Not even close.
Did I continue to return and eventually transition to bringing my own family?
Naturally, how could I abandon such a great source of material?