Jon LOVES the fair. County and state. And if you're not from a rural community you might thinks that's weird. But it's not, it's just what we do.
So last week was county fair and Jon had been waiting for a year to go back to the fairgrounds to eat breakfast from the 4H building and see the animals. Literally every time we drive past the fairgrounds he asks, "Is it almost time to go have breakfast with the cows?" For people who have never been to a fair: we don't actually eat with the cows. We order breakfast, eat it at a table and THEN go to the barns to see the animals.
In years past we have just had breakfast, looked at the critters and then headed home. Not this year. This was the first year that Jon was big enough to go on rides. *sigh*
I hate rides.
I can't handle the spinning and zooming around. And then there's the idea of all the germy, sticky hands that have been on every surface of the carnival rides. And the fact that most of them look like they are a tragic 10 o'clock news story waiting to happen. "Tonight at 10, death strikes a local county fair as 20 children were flung from the top of the popular ride 'The Zipper'..."
And God don't get me started on the carnies.
But having kids means partaking in carnival rides. So away we went.
We had a ridiculous amount of ride tickets from my work. Even though he's tall enough for most of them, I just let him go on the very toddler-specific rides: the train, bounce house, carousel, big slide, funhouse, etc. And he was ok with that. THIS year anyway...
Our first stop was the carousel. It seemed fairly harmless.
"Excuse me, is there an age restriction on this ride?" (My favorite question because then it's the carny's fault if we can't ride.)
I really just expected the ride operator to say, "Oh no, this ride is safe for all ages, hop on!"
I didn't expect him to shrug and say, "I dunno, it's not too fast."
Jon chose a sturdy looking stallion whom he named "Trotter." Trotter was pretty high up so I stood next to him to make sure Jon didn't fall off. Jon thought I should hop on Trotter's neighbor, Lightning. But I wasn't sure Lightning was up to bearing more than about 50 pounds, seeing as he only had one remaining bolt of four holding him to the floor.
We lurched to a start and Trotter was giving Jon the ride of his life. I was trying to focus on on the hind end of the horse in front of me so I didn't lose my cookies from the very bumpy circling we were doing. Ooh. I kind of feel gross just remembering it. Hang on...
Ok, we're good.
So we're whirling around having a grand old time; Jon shouting "HELLO!" every time we passed his dad and then laughing hysterically each and every time, like he had no idea his dad was just around the bend. Again.
Trotter was just winding down when I noticed the engine housing in the center of the carousel was open, gears, wheels and belts a-spinning away, with a grease gun laying in one of the flowery benches on the other side. Nice. Carousel Carny saw me eyeing the the lawsuit waiting to happen and assured me that, "We keep the top open cause it gets real hot otherwise, and we have to keep shutting down. Makes the kids real sad when we have to stop." Aww, it's all about the kids, how sweet.
After we reigned Trotter in we headed over to a funhouse looking thing with Spongebob characters painted all over it. I'm fairly certain there were some copyright infringements going on. That deathtrap didn't look like anything Nickelodeon would endorse. There was a ball pit, a rope ladder, some weird bungee obstacle and a big slide at the end. He loved it. And the lady runing it loved Jon. She sounded all loud and raspy like Sally Struthers. If she had a cartoon bubble above her head, every sentence in it would end in an exclamation point. "Climb on in, Honey, you got the whole place to yourself! It'll be fun! If you get stuck your mom'll have to come in and get you ok, Hon?! My knees won't let me do the crawling anymore! Too old for that! But I sure like to watch you little guys!..."
This went on for quite awhile, and being the polite little boy that he is, Jon just stared up at her waiting for her to clam up so he could go in. She wasn't clamming anytime soon and I don't think she was socially aware enough to be offended if we talked over her, so I sent him in.
At the very beginning there were some of those weird foamy pool noodles hanging from the top, with a picture of Squidward painted above them.
And taking a cue from Sally the Carny, he began rambling in a very loud run-on conversation himself.
"Mom, look! It's Squidward! These are his testicles hanging down by my head!"
"TENTICLES!" (We've had some anatomy questions lately)
"Oh yeah, I forget those sometimes! Look a ball pit! Will my shoes get the balls dirty?!" -Yeah, I'm super worried about you getting the funhouse dirty.- "Watch me climb this rope ladder, I'm really good at it! Mom, look at me, look at me I'm up here! MOM! I'm at the top! Do you see me?! I'm going to the slide now, watch me when I go down! WHEEEEEEE!!!"
It was a billion degrees, I made Jon sit in the shade and drink some water before we had anymore fun. Sally thought that was a good idea.
"You gotta listen to your mom, kiddo! She's right, you gotta keep drinkin' when it's this hot out! Look! I got one too!" She pull a barrel-sized mug of Mountain Dew from under her chair and thank god she took a drink because it was the only time she wasn't talking.
Sally droned on while we decided what rides to do next. I convinced him that Trotter was tired and had to go out to pasture for the night, so we headed for the train. It was kind of lame, there were no other kids on it, so he took one spin and wanted to head back to the funhouse. Sally was pumped that he was back.
"Hey kiddo! You're back! Climb on in there! You know what to do now don't you?! Yeah, get on in there! You been taking some drinks?!" She raised her mug to him and offered a one-sided "Cheers!" as he headed in again. We used all the rest of his tickets at the funhouse. I just gave the whole sheet of them to Sally and let him run wild until other kids showed up and we had to call him down.
He was having the time of his life and I wasn't sure how we were going to get him out of there without a fight. And then, like a voice from the heavens: "Pop a balloon and win! Kids throw til they win! Every kid gets a prize!" Here was my out.
"JON! Do you want to play a carnival game?! You get to throw darts at balloons and take home a prize!"
"YES I WOULD LIKE TO DO THAT!"
And he was down that slide in no time. Sally was sorry to see him go. She was just stuffing her cigarettes and albuterol inhaler back into her shirt pocket and she stopped to give Jon a high five. "We'll be at Madison County Fair next week Honey if you want to play some more! Have fun! I hope you get a prize!..."
The dart game was the fastest and best part of the fair. It cost me five bucks, but if that meant no screaming on our way out the gate it was so worth it. We had a deal that if he won a prize (and I knew he would!) we would go straight home and play with it. Win-win.
He actually hit a balloon with his second dart, which shocked the hell out of me and I was glad to get our ragtag, not very soft stuffed animal and head out of there. But Dart Carny had a different idea about prizes for three year old boys. "You don't want no teddy bear do ya dude? You want a GUN!"
"YEAH! Mom I never got a gun before!"
I hate toy guns. I think toy guns are in the ranks of candy cigarettes and the Fisher Price Home Brew Kit. (Ok, I made that last thing up, but you get how ridiculous the first two are, right?) Encouraging minors to to pretend to do things that are illegal is stupid. I think real guns for adults are fine. And real cigarettes for adults, while gross, are fine. Giving fake ones to kids to pretend that they are doing something dangerous and in both cases sometimes deadly, is stupid.
Water guns are great, they are colorful and whimsical. Taking your kid hunting is super. Teach them how to do it safely. Don't give your kid a fake gun and tell them to pretend to shoot other people. It's weird.
But what am I going to do now that the freaking carny has placed the forbidden fruit into Jon's hot little hands? Well, we have called it a "hunting rifle" with specific instructions that it is for hunting animals and that it goes straight to the trash if he pretends to shoot people with it. Strangely enough all of the plastic yellow pellets that it came with have gotten "lost" and it has lost it's luster.
All in all it was a good day. Nobody got maimed on the rides. Jon made a crazy loud new friend and discovered his hidden talent at dart throwing. We ended up with a damn toy gun, that has so far been used to hunt water buffalo, aka the dining room chairs with blankets thrown over them. So not too shabby I'd say.