The sky was relatively clear, the air was warm, and the sun beat down upon my black shirt like the fury of the gods. A wardrobe mistake, one might infer. But this ebony cloth depicted three howling wolves, and I knew that with it, I would slip into the York Fair crowd seamlessly; anonymously.
As some of you may well know, I have been quite vocal about my distaste for this little money-vampire in the past and equally in the present. In 2002, I wrote an article about it that still gets brought up to me by people until this very day. But 2010 marks (what I think is) my 10th year York Fair boycott anniversary, so I thought it would be apropos to do a little follow-up text by actually revisiting the coveted, human-dignity’s-train-wreck that is America’s Oldest Fair™.
The beginning of today’s little adventure came about pretty mildly at the convenience of having a friend in the car parking business, so I got to dump my jalopy off for free and with relative ease. Free parking is essential, because to pay for both admission and parking at this event would be borderline masochism.
No, it wasn’t until I got to the front gate this time around that I ran into the first of many soul-crushing farces being levied upon Fairgoers this year. Observe the following photograph:
Pretty unassuming, right?
If you are aware of the popular slogan associated with the York Fair, “Wind it up and it runs 10 days!”, and apply this to a $6 entry fee, one would deduce that to go every day for the entirety of the Fair’s stay would cost $60. ”Outrageous!” you’d bellow. But fear not: They were thinking of you and are offering Season Tickets. Great! Surely they’re’ll be a price break involved!
The fuck?! That’s not a price break, that’s a price-break-you. No thanks, fellas, I’ll just pay normal admission everyday and save myself some dough, here. Oh, but who am I kidding? There really is no way to save money at the fair unless, of course, you want to spend the entirety of your stay inside Toyota Center watching shit fall out of animal asses for free (more on that later. Actually no, we’ll just leave it at that.)
But it’s definitely not in the admission cost where they fuck you; it’s the rides. As I remembered, most ticket booths would offer an all-day bracelet for the rides, costing around $25. Long gone are those days, I suppose, as the best deal they can offer you is 55 tickets for $51. A surprisingly adequate price break, given that tickets are $1.25, but those tickets are, of course, finite.
The average ride costs 4 tickets, so at $1.25 a ticket you’re going on a ride for $5. Sometimes rides are 5 or more tickets. Your kid and his friend each ride 5 rides and before you know it, you’re buying another 55 tickets.
One ridiculous looking fucker was 10 tickets. Twelve American dollars to ride one ride at the fair. Well, at least we can say with confidence that everybody gets their money’s worth riding these great machines, right?
I scoff at the thought. The average 4-ticket ride is about 2 minutes long, sometimes less. The stomach churning flying-swings ride at the front gate (5 tickets) is in the air for a whopping minute-and-a-half before the pixelated operator starts the lowering-and-slowing process. At 90 seconds, a $6.25 ride means you’re paying roughly 7 cents a second to have fun. For fuck’s sake man, you can get 15 minutes worth of enjoyment at an arcade for 50 cents if you pick the right game.
“But I go to the York Fair for the food!” Most of you shall now, ever so feebly, utter. Well, let’s go ahead and discuss the Fair’s food.
The name of the above place is totally no-frills, no-bullshit. They call themselves exactly what every other shop on this God-forsaken slab should: Fried Dough. That’s precisely what you get when you come to the York Fair with an appetite. Corn dogs, battered vegetables (for the nutritionally conscious), funnel cakes, deep-fried twinkies, breaded Oreos. Breaded Oreos. My You’ve-Gotta-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me meter goes on the fritz and I have to go inside. Somewhere, anywhere.
I take refuge in the cool corridor that is attached to the towering stadium, where I see mostly more food stands. I start to notice a trend among all of the vendors: the $4-5 price point. Everything at this place is begging for you to break out your buddy Lincoln at every other turn.
One place boasting its Pennsylvania Dutch heritage was slapping together ham and cheese sandwiches on Holsum brand rolls straight out of the bag for $4.25 a pop. We’re talking, like, the sandwich your mom would put in your lunchbox every Tuesday morning, here. My dwindling pocket was insulted, and my eyes desired to see new, more promising things.
So now I’m back outside, looking for something to catch my eye besides every other tattooed teen mom that seemed to populate the Fair’s core demographic this year, and I come across the great tent of horrors, or the freak-museum-of-what-have-you. ”No,” I thought to myself, “you mustn’t spend your money on such frivolities.”
I was, at first, content with this decision, until I noticed something very peculiar to the far left:
Olga Hess? Why, she must be of relation to me! And science is keeping her alive? I felt that I must have a look at her condition, and I knew then that I couldn’t leave the Fair until my concerns were satisfied. I paid my $2 entry fee and walked in.
The tent featured your usual, gimmicky, schlocky bullshit. Dead goat stuffed in a jar, 2-headed turtle pattering about, replica of mummified two-headed baby. Replica. Clearly not alive, and clearly not the two-bodied, one-headed child that was advertised. Alas, I heard a brute woman’s voice coming from the back of the tent and thought for sure that it must have been the tragic bellows of Miss Olga, the headless girl. My path to her, however, was temporarily blocked by a carn-type who was meticulously pulling out grass patches that he didn’t like.
I was wholly disheartened to find that the woman on the other side of the wall was, in fact, not my anatomically unfortunate relative, but an overweight, vulgar woman in her early twenties with piercings on her upper lip, sprouting long tubes of plastic which, if I was put to a guess, were intended to look like whiskers. The horrible wretch of a creature then, without any provoking or desire from the crowd, proceeded to twist a screwdriver all the way into her nose while I winced, thinking about the anything-other-than-this-shit I could have spent my two dollars on.
The pathetic soul then briefly fluttered a top-hat in our faces, making some vague mumbling about needing insurance, but I think she wanted us to give her money. The look on her face was entirely nonchalant and uncaring, as if she knew that her morbid routine was not worth any of our hardly-earned cash, and that this “insurance dance” was just her thoughtful way of giving us another reason to despise her. I came for Olga, you bitch.
My heart was in a wreck. I was swindled out of my $2, did not reconnect with my long-lost kin, and was unduly subjected to some strumpet’s self-mutilation. Surely, I thought to myself, I can find something in this Hell-hole that is good; something that affirms this event’s very right to exist. And there, in a moment of clarity, it appeared over the horizon…
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II