Louisville Magazine

AUG 2015

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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38 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.15 Wandering the grounds of the Kentucky State Fair, where hot weather and a menagerie of humans and livestock put on a show. Lone Sheep and Deep-Fried Hallelujahs By Arielle Christian Of course the mermaid (me, Arielle, the joke of my name) frst steps under the sea. Into a big ol' tent adorned with underwater possibilities: Gold fringe undulations mimic shifty coral; wooden wildlife is colorful — rhinestones stud angelfsh, and spray paint swirls neon seahorses, cool blue dolphins. Damn it, should have brought my snorkel fns. I look for Jimmy Bufett's Parrotheads, but that's a diferent concert. Tis is the 2014 Kentucky State Fair, the shebang's 110th anniversary, Mike Linnig's Tropical Tent. Seafood is frying, and inside the white tent faps it smells like crunchy cod and tartar. Tere are waves and waves of Bud Light and Lime-A-Ritas, pour spouts stationed in each corner. I'm a little hung over and think beer will help, you know, hair of the dog (scale of the fsh?), but it's cash only, and I'm cash none-ly, so I stand and soak instead. One in the afternoon and all this muggy sweat. It's patriotic in this ocean. On tropical stage: "Te Star-Spangled Banner," frst by a three-year-old, who is of-(Francis Scott)key at every broad stripe. At a picnic table covered in polyester-printed lobsters, an on-break Linnig's worker, pink tee'd and visored, bursts, "Who the fuck is singing? Tey fucking suck." She looks guilty when she realizes it's just a kid, not some American Idol audition gone wrong. "Oops." She bites her thick lip. Next up, a whole chorus singing more America. "Star-Spangled Banner" again, this time by the Coca-Cola Dancers, a group of ladies young and older than young. Tey stand in a line across the stage. Each teenager fddles with her blue jean short-shorts, bracing her braces for her big solo, just a few words, the nowadays-reduced-to fve-seconds of fame. Even smaller girls enter from stage right and sit cross-legged in front of the others. Sporting Coca-Cola tees and silver-sparkle headbands, they sway cut-out stars above their heads and sort of resemble real, live Christmas trees, though it's only August. Te song lasts for fve minutes longer than usual, the grand fnale. After, the leader of the pack, a redheaded mama in a straw cowboy hat, introduces each girl, and it's a contest for the most cheers. Whose family screams loudest? Which grandma brought her blow horn? Te gals wave to the crowd, arms half-mast, somewhere between beauty queen and Hitler. Mama concludes with, "See y'all at the Elliott County Fair next month! God bless!" All this action and I'm only in the parking lot. Can't go too far without some oddity stilling you. State fair website says, "Everybody has that one thing at the fair they can't wait to see." I don't have a certain thing. It's my frst time here, just for shit giggles. I'm ready for anything, with the know that I won't catch it all. I take it in slowly, my course unplanned, aimless, wandering. Wonder who I'll see, what worlds I'll grasp, hold. It's the last day of the 11-day fair, the Sunday slowed to stragglers. Beyond the Tropical Tent, a line of port-a-pots, no one waiting, most latches turned green. Less pissers means more pissers. Beside the potties, a large poster announcing "Te Amazing Doberman Show!!!" which happens every other hour, unfortunately not this one. Near South Wing B of the Kentucky Exposition Center, a booth with racks and racks of infatables: gorillas and SpongeBob SquarePants and a lucha libre wrestler. At least I think that's what that mask means, though the wrestler's body is too pale, the single curlicue chest hair drawn on just disturbing. Te vendor wears bright tie-dye and a long white ponytail. He infates a rockin' double- neck guitar. Te pump sounds like it knows a secret and softly giggles. Sst, sst, sst. Unless that's just ol' dude's respiratory problem.... Sitting on a bench in front of South Wing B, watching the world go by. Sounds like a country song, don't it? Be surprised if that one ain't performed later at the Budweiser Music Stage, starred on my map. And, man, this map spread on my lap. Like a Rubik's Cube, unsolved, unfolded. Each section of the Expo Center color-blocked: South Wing C teal fades to South Wing B aqua, which curves and warms to Freedom Hall red, which brightens to yellow Pavilion. Also pictured: maze of parking lots through letter N. (Of the map, most lots cram-packed with cars of the some 500,000 folks who cycle through the fair each year.) Dashes mark the tram route, and the tram pulls in front of me, stalls at the tram stop. A woman runs on and two little kids skip after her, careful not to drop their corn dogs. Dad follows, shirtless but still sleeved with R.I.P.s and dead names: Martha, Elliott, Jesus. Tey're of with an All aboard!, John Deere pulling the bobbly trolley cars. I'm not sure which is more impressive: Freedom Hall or this man's mullet. All nice and silver and buzzed just right so up top it stands static straight. Walking along with his liter of Mountain Dew (guess you can tote your own refreshments here, unless he won that of a rubber ducky), he seems to be doing real good. Least that's what his shirt reports in big camo letters: "Happy/Happy/ Happy." He keeps under the sun while others stroll or wheelchair-roll in or out of the South Wing. When exiting, a defeated sigh or "Whew wee!" into the heat. When entering, sigh of relief. Cool air rushes over me, and my shoulders relax a little. One man says to another, "Hallelujah." It's open in here. In my head, Dixie Chicks. Wide open spaces. On and on and on, like a bad sentence. Over there, some stairs and escalators. Tat way, a hallway. Trough this row of doors, more space. I step to the information booth, snag today's schedule of events, head through the double- double-double doors. "In a way, we're all here to be swallowed up." — David Foster Wallace, "Ticket to the Fair"

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