Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guide to Winning Summer: Go to the State Fair

The following is the latest installment in the "Badger Catholic's Totally Excellent Guide to Winning Summer." 
It's easy to call the 4th of July the pinnacle of Summer. And indeed, there's a case to be made. But that means pretty much two thirds of your summer is in decline. And that's no good.

I think the peak of summer is the week-and-a-half window in early August when the Wisconsin State Fair runs in West Allis, just outside of Milwaukee. As much as there is to enjoy about Summer, it's hard to find anything that beats the Fair. I usually go two different days--one with my parents and one with my in-laws.

I usually loath the term "fun for the whole family."  Sesame Street on Ice is not fun for the whole family. Disney movies are not fun for the whole family. The game "Cootie" is definitely not fun for the whole family. I've begun to suspect that "fun for the whole family" is a veiled euphemism for fun for everybody except Dad.

But the State Fair truly does have something for everybody: Rides, animals, food, cold ones, spectacle, music--if you can't find something you enjoy, that's on you.

Good news: My brother, who visited the State Fair the same day, graced us with his presence for a few minutes.
Bad news: He's a total hipster.

When we go with my parents we'll usually arrive and check out some animals. Then we'll grab lunch and probably look at some more animals. But after the second round of animals, the best afternoon of the year begins as we park it under a pavilion for a few hours listening to cover bands and drinking beer in the hot summer air. At this time we'll generally grab a snack too. Last year it was "Cookie on a Stick."

Like pretty much every food that comes on a stick, these cookies were amazing.

After we've heard enough George Thorogood songs (or if the band decides to ruin the afternoon by delving into Jethro Tull) we'll head to the Expo Center. There are interesting things to look at there, and they also have a number of kids' activities. Peter is a big fan of face painting. In 2011, he went with a football on the cheek. Last year the choice was obvious: mustache.


Living it Up

If you've got money to spend, you can do it by seeing a band. But I wouldn't recommend it; the lineup is pretty terrible. Instead, you should spend your money on food and beer. Prior to the fair this year, a food competition will be held, and all the submissions will be available for purchase. Gilbert Brown is one of the judges, and if this food is good enough for Gilbert Brown, it's good enough for me.

A couple years back we tried the chocolate covered bacon. To my astonishment, it was good. You get the sweet chocolate flavor which melted away into the delicious flavor of bacon. It wasn't like you got both tastes at once. My wife is a big fan of the chocolate covered cookie dough on a stick, and she will walk all over the park until she finds it. It is, in fact, delicious.

While I love pizza more than most people, I don't recommend that you go and buy pizza. Make sure you're getting legit fair food: corn dogs, sausage, burgers, cheese, food on a stick. Also, somebody needs to say it, but don't waste time on cream puffs, which are easily the most overrated food at the fair.

You can also spend money on rides. I think my son is probably getting to be tall enough that we can do some awesome rides. You can get a wristband for unlimited rides, but it will cost you $35. I used to get the wristband back in high school. During my freshman year, it only cost $15.

Peter suggested we do a "silly faces picture." The results speak for themselves.

For the Budget Conscious 

There are a lot of great ways to go to the fair on a budget. The best, however, is on opening day, when admission before 4 p.m. is only $2 with the donation of two nonperishable food items.

There are also opportunities to eat relatively cheaply as well. I can neither remember nor find the name, but there is a pavilion hosted by the Wisconsin dairy industry in which traditional Wisconsin foods are sold much more inexpensively than you can find anywhere else at the fair. This includes ice cream, burgers, sausage and much more. It's an absolute steal.

Finally, if this year is like the last couple, you'll be able to purchase Robinade all over the park for only $1. The serving size is small, but it's perfect if you're bringing your big Catholic family with you. 

So go! Enjoy the fair. And send us your pictures of awesome stuff you'll be eating. 

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