I just completed my annual trip to the James Dean Festival with my kids, and it’s wonderful to know that I won’t have to endure it again for another 365 days.  Since we live in the midst of the darned thing—two short blocks from the cacophonous midway—there is no way we can avoid taking the kids over for some rides and a bit of funnel cake, lest we face a household mutiny.  Just a few goes on the Kamikaze, Gravitron, and Tilt-a-Whirl are enough to satiate their appetites for spinning and sudden stops, then we are on our way back home to wash off the cigarette smoke and airborne grease. 

As my kids and I plodded through the sweaty mob from ride to ride, I began to compile a list of the things I despise about such festival atmospheres.  One day my children will know how much it tortures me.  But I hide it from them for now so as not to spoil their fun.  At any rate, here is my list (and please don’t share it with Bailey, Sam, Maggie, or Andrew until they are at least in middle school):

10. The ridiculously overpriced rides, midway attractions, and “food”

9. The constant drone of midway vendors, as they clamor after passersby to “take a shot” at winning a big kitschy stuffed animal

8. Thousands and thousands of feet of electrical cords.  Watch your step or you’ll roll an ankle or maybe even tear an ACL.

7. The swarms of bees and yellow jackets which feast in droves on the remnants of sugary treats and puddles of spilled beverages

6. The absurdly unhealthy food—all essentially comprised of sugar-laden fat dipped in grease.  Some of these treats, however, are hotter than others.

5. The grotesquely corpulent adults

4. The painfully self-conscious teenagers (and the not-sufficiently self-conscious ones who should be sentenced to a semester-long seminar on appropriate public display of affection)

3. Whining kids everywhere.  Not my kids, of course.  Only other peoples’ kids.

2. The random and unexpected profanity.  I can take it from the tattoo-riddled, unkempt Skydiver operator.  But from the preschool kid whose mom smiles amusedly at his casual F-bomb?

1. Elephant ears.

That’s just the top ten.  I’ll spare you the other 990. 

Now somebody please pass me the Rolaids.

3 Responses to “My Hate-Affair with Fairs and Festivals”

  1. Lezlie


    While I share your hatred of most of the aspects of festivals, I am shocked that someone who can eat a fried fishburger (though I understand it is not your favorite) doesn’t at least have a love-hate relationship with elephant ears. I mean, they are pretty tasty and I would never make one in my house, so it’s a real treat to go buy one once or twice a year. (Though given the proportion of the thing, it should be shared with several friends.) I recognize that they are different from a fried fishburger in that the fishburger actually has some nutritional value in there somewhere, but come on, we would make fun of elephant ears if they were whole-grain.

  2. layla


    We have learned to take the festival in small doses. Something like this…clean the house like maniacs on Wed and Thur
    dirty no dishes or laundry on Fri
    eat some fresh fruit Fri eve
    walk uptown…purchase one TREAT split it 4 ways
    say hello to some friends
    walk home
    Saturday: volunteer to park cars to raise money at kids’ school
    Sat: pm park cars at church to raise more money for teens
    mixed in: purchase of some bb type airsoft (gun) yes, a gun!
    purchase some jewelry probably made in a sweatshop by starving children
    guilt guilt guilt
    buy spiral cut deep fried potato-share 4 ways
    can’t find homemade pumpkin ice cream! darn darn darn!
    put kids to bed, vow to eat only fruits and veg for rest of life

  3. layla


    kamikaze cage door flies open while in mid-air!!!!
    i saw it with my own eyes on saturday evening !
    screaming teenagers
    unobservant carnies (ride operators)
    more screaming teenagers
    cage door squeaking and creaking in mid-air
    carnies finally hear screams and bring the ride to a gradual, very gradual halt
    any ride that is assembled and reassembled by intoxicated people on a regular basis is not safe-it may be fun, it may be thrilling, but not safe
    i learned this when i was 3, and have not forgotten it (long, icky tilt-a-whirl story….)


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