The Lost Soul of the Fair

I just went to the California State Fair. Twice. The purpose of the second visit was to visit a horse I missed the first time. Read on and you’ll learn all about it.

Note: I didn’t go alone, but I’m leaving out my companions so that my words will be taken solely as my own reflections and opinions.

As soon as you enter the gates your mind loses focus. The environment seems programmed to spur any four year-old into a frenzy and adults into a coma of sensory overload. I kept thinking, “What is all this about“, if anything more than consumerism or eating binges?

The fair had its origins in agriculture. Here’s a poster that clearly states the intent.

CA-12-jpgHere is a poster from the current fair, which I feel completely falsifies the ambience:

Events-ExhibitsSo, you’d think there might be a lot of greenery about and a restful, rural feeling to the event. Instead, what you see after passing through the entrance is this:


That’s a monorail track overhead. Beyond is a huge sector devoted to amusement park rides and booths. There were kids on the rides. Fewer kids wanted to try to throw balls or darts at bottles, fishbowls, crates or dummies to win the stuffed or inflated toy prizes. Many booths had no takers at all. I felt rather sorry for these vendors. Maybe their games are too low-tech for our digital culture.

The food vendors had no trouble getting customers. Everyone knows about the food sold at state and county fairs. Deep fried peanut butter on a stick? No problem! Chocolate covered bacon? No problem! Hamburgers stuffed with macaroni and cheese? No….. oy vay. I can’t say that’s not a problem. Anyhow, more than the food itself, what grabs my attention more is the “Food art.” Here’s are examples:

food art1

Boris_17I said something earlier about driving a little kid into a frenzy. I think these jumbo signs are designed to lure adults into a coronary! Well done, I’d say. No pun intended.

One area is devoted to exhibits of various sorts: crafts, fine art, middle school students’ vocational projects and exhibits sponsored by various corporations with a slant on science or technology (and a bigger slant toward advertising). Hmmm, what happened to Silicon Valley? I didn’t see much that seemed cutting edge. At the turn of the century, electric lights were new and exciting enough to get their own exhibit.


On to the art! One artist set up in the fine art building is the ultimate in low-tech. Meet Tapigami artist Danny Scheible. In the photo below, the backgrounds are fashioned from coat hangers. If you stand farther away, this isn’t readily apparent and you think you’re looking at some sort of intricate drapery. Below these, a cityscape is done wholly with masking tape.

Boris_25Contrast this tape city with the seriousness of a model of a domed building from a fair early in the last century, extolling the glory of architecture:

buildingStateFair18-jpgEach work of art in the fine art area has a rather large label. Apparently, the artists were asked to talk about their work. Being an artist myself, I’ve been put in that position many times. You don’t know what the heck to say.

Maybe we are stuck to satirizing ourselves these days. Is that why there doesn’t seem to be any focus behind the fair I visited yesterday? Everywhere I looked there was something that seemed to be “too much.”

Yeah, I did go see the animals. Sadly, the baby pigs got cancelled due to a swine virus outbreak. I did get to see some of my favorite cows: Holsteins. There is also a very small courtyard housing a rescued eagle and two river otters and a sulking pelican who had his back turned on the whole situation. The eagle stared at the crowd. I wondered what she could be thinking.



I tried to locate a horse owned by a friend. On this day, I never found the horse and in the process, had to ask many unsmiling and recalcitrant horse owners for help. Unfortunately, my horse IQ was beyond contempt. They weren’t interested in the horse’s name or even the name of its owner. They wanted to know what kind of horse it is. And I don’t know. I almost said something like, “a brownish one with four legs and a tail,” but let it go at “I don’t know…” However, they made me feel like it was an imposition just to ask in the first place. What’s up with that attitude?

Two days later, I located Mikey the horse after the owner’s friend took the time to escort me to the proper barn, which was behind the barns I’d looked at the first time around. I learned the horse is a thoroughbred. Perhaps that’s why he stuck his tongue out at me.


I feel that after expending so much energy to see him he could at least have been courteous! Perhaps horse manners are different. Like I said before, I don’t know horses.

By the time we left, I was feeling rather let down. My day was brightened by some college kids in red shirts. They were handing out information from the Southern Poverty Law Center and asking for donations for an anti-bullying campaign. Seeing these energetic and optimistic kids, I felt relieved that there’s more to our society than meets the eye.

Mickey is a printmaker and the author of two mystery novels. Check out





~ by mickeyhoffman on July 19, 2014.

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