Longtime MCC readers know my wife and I are loyal fans of the Indiana State Fair. Despite all the road trips we’ve done over the past fifteen years, we’ve never tried anyone else’s state fair. The idea has occurred to us more than once, but most state fairs are held later in the year than our vacation week. It’s not our fault that everyone else’s timing is wrong.
This year we were shocked to discover a state fair held in July and in one of the states we were already planning to visit: the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, held each year in Chippewa Falls for the benefit of upstate residents who can’t work out travel arrangements to the adjectiveless Wisconsin State Fair outside Milwaukee, down in the southeast corner of the state. Once we confirmed it would exist during the right time frame and not far off our route, we had to squeeze it into our Day Two schedule.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. I wanted a do-over.
We realized the Northern Wisconsin State Fair wouldn’t be a radical change of pace from our own State Fair. It was the principle of the thing. What if they had different, Wisconsinian options? What if they had unique fairground attractions to call their own? What if it turned out really weird?
Regardless, we would need lunch that day anyway, so we planned our departure time from Madison to ensure arrival at the fair in time for lunch, give or take an hour or three because of heinous traffic.
We found a couple of new food options. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing we’d seen back home, either. My lunch was a delicacy labeled “currywurst”, sold by a traveling vendor called ‘ZGerman Sausage Hut. German meat stylings, spicy sauce.
Up there in Photo #1 is me and my dessert, one of several insta-diabetic confections available on the premises from a most sugar-driven concession stand. Click the photo to enlarge and window-shop to your stomach’s content.
My wife was proud of her simple, humble Green Apple Swirl ice cream cone from some other benign, modest entrepreneur.
Most creative food-stand design: lemonade a la Pac Man.
Food isn’t our only reason for attending fairs, but I must admit we’ve both lost interest in amusement park rides. We haven’t been on any rides since my son reached the age of too-coolness, and after one last Kings Island visit a couple years ago. (I meant to share photos from that here on MCC, especially since there were special guests involved. Someone please remind me to come back around to that in the future.) For us, most rides nowadays sicken or injure us. The technology and paint jobs may be improving, and maybe even the safety standards too, but our endurance and motion-sickness issues are assuredly not.
Not all rides would have us reaching for my old friend Dramamine, but many of the calmer, less gravitationally intensive constructs don’t do much for us. If you’ve seen the three or four different kinds of fun houses out there on the carny tour circuit, you’ve seen ’em all. And neither of us feels compelled to spend extra money on ride tickets just so we can say that we rode anything. There’s no “Fair Card” that we’re worried about someone revoking from us for failing to be model midway customers.
So what do we do? We wander. We see other attractions. We peek inside exhibit halls. We make a beeline for special performances. We check the schedule for musical acts that might by up our alley. (This last one virtually never happens, but I promise I do check just in case.)
For us the strangest part of our visit was their 4-H exhibit building, its contents beaming with youthful Wisconsin pride. As visitors from a faraway land with our own sense of what statehood looks like to us, we learned a lot reading viewpoints from dedicated youngsters who love where they live and will cheerfully teach you all about it. I’m pretty sure this poster told us everything we need to know about what Wisconsin is, where it came from, and why it should matter to You, the Viewers at Home.
To be continued. Next time: State Fair animals!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]