While the Agricultural Fair may be an all-ages event, its heartbeat is felt most strongly by the children who stream around the game booths, scream as they're carried aloft by spinning rides, and congregate around picnic tables where they survive for four days on a diet of fried food and ice cream.
Consider Emily Hammett and Caroline King, two nine-year olds who have been close friends since they were toddlers. The two marched side by side through the fairgrounds, dressed in identical blue skirts, T-shirts, henna tattoos, and floppy blue felt tophats that would have been at home in a scene from Alice in Wonderland or a Dr. Seuss book. The girls were good sports about describing the highlights of the 2005 Agricultural Fair.
Best animal? "Belle, the Clydesdale horse," Ms. King replied. "She went backwards through the maze during the draft horse competition. It was cool."
"I like the baby pigs," Ms. Hammett countered. "They were cute."
The best ride was a toss-up between the Roundup, Paratrooper, and the Teacups. And then there's the rock climbing wall...and the Gravitron....
Both reported that they'd by-passed the games, saving their money for rides and food. And what was the best fair food?
"It's sweet and it's a really good treat," Ms. King said. "It's yummy," Ms. Hammett chimed in. The two nibbled on fried onion rings and French fries while sharing an iced lemonade. Emily's mother, Deborah, surveyed the dishes and gave a bemused gesture of surrender. While the snacks might be deficient in nutritional value, fair food is a once-a-year treat, an indispensable part of the four-day celebration that marks the end of the languid summer days and the inevitable transition to shorter days, cooler nights, and the return to school.
Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.