I love the State Fair. The fried foods. The livestock. The temporary rides of questionable safety. The enviable-yet-eternally-mysterious sense of weathered camaraderie in the carnie community.

I don’t, however, love, like or even have special feelings for the exhibit entry process.

In recent years, we have allowed the girls to enter something, mostly so we can purchase the discounted exhibitor’s tickets. There’s a 200+ page document that governs this process (called, for some reason, “The Premium Book”; there is no other version of this document, no “Standard” or “Inferior” Book, and it’s free to all, so the name is not explained by relative quality or cost. I can only guess that the term “Premium” was added because they knew how frustrating its existence would be, and they couldn’t very well call if the “Awesome Book” or the “You’re Not Even Gonna Believe This!” Book.); it’s full of cross-referenced entry instructions, drop-off dates and locations, exclusions, warnings, etc.

It’s stressful.

I cannot imagine it was this difficult, say, 100 years ago:

FAIR-ENTRANT, 1918: I’d like to enter my pie in the fair.

FAIR CUSTODIAN, 1918: Why, that’s great, just capital! Fine and dandy like licorice candy! Say, what kind of pie you got there?”

FAIR-ENTRANT, 1918: Banana Cream.

FAIR CUSTODIAN, 1918: Wooo-weee! That sure does look delicious! Just leave that here and I’ll put it with the others. Do my best to make sure the goats don’t get ‘hold of it, hehe. See you at the Fair, and best of luck!


FAIR-ENTRANT, 2018: I’d like to enter my pie in the fair.

FAIR CUSTODIAN, 2018: “What kind of pie is it?”

FAIR-ENTRANT, 2018: Category 2457, Module B.

FAIR CUSTODIAN, 2018: I see. That would be ‘Handmade, No Boxed Mix, Fresh Tropical Fruit, Pure Cane Sugar, 7-inch Oval Pan, Primary Color Icing, Prepared While Listening to Soft Rock, Kept Under a Blanket of 100% Oxygen’?

FAIR-ENTRANT, 2018: Yes.

FAIR CUSTODIAN, 2018: I see. Pies have to be dropped off in a separate location, and it changes every hour. Go out this door, take a left. You’ll see a sow nursing 7 piglets. Not 6, not 8. In the straw is hidden a light blue skeleton key; there will be others, you want the LIGHT blue. Find the key and take it to the goat milking station. There you will see a pirate’s chest. Use the key to open the chest. Inside, you will find several slips of paper. Take one, and only one. Lock the chest and return to the sow’s pen and hide the key again. Do not disturb the sow.

Take the slip of paper received from the pirate’s chest and walk through the rabbit and chicken hall, into the alley behind. There is a food truck called ‘Jolly Tamale.’ Give the slip of paper to the lady at the register. Her name is Molly. She is NOT jolly. She will give you a tamale. Inside the tamale is a second slip of paper. This is a map to a find third slip of paper. This piece of paper will be located in one of the 38 restrooms on the premises. You MUST find this third slip of paper; this is your entrant number, although you won’t be able to read it as it is written in invisible ink, by one of those people who can write entire books on a grain of rice.

Bring that last slip back here and give it to me. Then I will reveal the ink, place it under a microscope, and tell you where you can drop off your pie. Remember: you must be back before the top of the hour, at which point the location changes and you’ll have to do it over again.

By the way, we close in 20 minutes.

Oh, and I need to know what Soft Rock you listened to when preparing the pie.

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