I know this may not go over well with many readers but I have an abiding hollow feeling after the Sevier County Fair this past Labor Day week.
Yes, there were still the old faithful events including the Fairest of the Fair, prize chickens, impressive exhibits, and plenty of food including the absolutely required funnel cakes, Dippin’ Dots (the “ice cream of the future” that has been around longer than my kids…), and real lemonade. There were bumper cars and plenty of vomit comets that make me sick just watching them. There was the hayride from the parking area, which makes the trip to and from the truck a highlight of the fair each year.
All of those things are wonderful. What I am referring to is a glaring omission so blatant and obvious that most my age will agree it approaches tragedy.
The kids first noted a different silhouette of this year’s fair with the tallest rides from previous years seemingly absent. Upon entering the midway, however, that was gleefully forgotten among the gathered assortment of rides spinning them in circles at varying speeds and angles. The Gravitron alone was a HUGE hit.
But as I waited amidst the piercing screams and blaring horns for the kids to get their fill of rides, I found myself straining to hear something more. Even at the Himalayan, with its familiar alpine paint scheme and centrifugal forces squashing the inside kids up against the outer, and almost inevitably, smaller kids – something was missing. The minutes ticked by, and still my ears were left wanting . . .
The Guns-n-Roses anthem.
That’s right… not one GnR song the entire night.
I actually didn’t know it was possible to have a fair and operate these spinning machines without queueing up the multi-octave talent of Axl Rose, welcoming everyone to the Jungle and reminding all of their imminent mortality with promises that “you’re gonna diiiiiiee.” I would have at least had my desire abated if given his alluring description of the green grass and pretty girls of Paradise City. But no such luck.
What is a fair without Guns-n-Roses blaring in the background, surpassed in volume only by a deeply baritoned carnie inquiring, “Do you wanna go fasteeeerrrr?” as dozens of screaming kids respond with shouts of “YEESSSSS!”? Even if those more like me softly whisper under their breath, “Nah, I’m good,” and clutch the metal bars ever tighter as the machinery switches into a higher gear and brings them seemingly closer to Axl’s fatal prediction.
Stinging from the dawning reality that I would leave the fair without my GnR fix, I decided not to endure such agony alone and dragged my kids away to watch the lawnmower tractor pull, a personal favorite.
The kids, watching the rides spin without them in the distance, were disgusted. My teenager reflected on the mini-tractor pull, expressing her dissatisfaction with a required eye roll and tone you can probably well imagine: “What is the point in these lawnmowers pulling weights?”
Still feeling sour, I shut that down. “It’s symbolic of the struggle of mankind,” I replied. “We create our own burdens and then struggle to drag them along.”
Nope, not a discussion a teen will risk furthering on a Friday night.
Someone commented about the amazing torque of these souped-up mowers, and my 10-year-old queried, “What is torque?”
“It’s like twerking except with lawnmowers.”
The children stared off wide-eyed, either disturbed or mystified by the analogy, but content to leave me to wallow in philosophical misery alone.
Indeed, I was almost physically pained by this errant omission of what I had believed to be required midway music. It brought back memories of the day I received the somber news that Guns-n-Roses, or more specifically Axl Rose and Slash, had split. It wasn’t even that unexpected, given that they had been “working through creative differences” in a rather volatile manner for years, but the loss was no less jarring to GnR fans across the world.
Perhaps for you it was the break-up of the Eagles or maybe the Beach Boys. (No, children, Zayne leaving One Direction does not compare.) Perhaps many of you have also mourned the loss of, say, Hank Williams, as midway music, or at least Elvis. Presumably they had fair midways prior to GnR. I read about it in Charlotte’s Web.
But this I know. You have had at least 3 decades to get used to it. GnR has ruled fairground midways since at least the mid-‘80s.
So tell us. How do we get through this? Generation-Xers are running for President, taking over multinational corporations, founding far-reaching nonprofits to save the world, and plotting trajectories and propulsion systems to visit Mars. But we have to surrender the fair midway music???!!!
At least for those of us less ambitious than Elon Musk and Rand Paul, it’s a raw deal.
I realize I am a 45-year-old accountant, father of four, and semi-respectable member of society, at least to those who don’t know better. But you don’t want me to have to don the leathers and shoulder my own boombox at next year’s fair to rectify this situation. Think of the children!
So I beseech thee, my brethren and sistren who so reliably bring us the best county fair in the country, when the contract for next year’s fair entertainment goes out for bidding, add a GnR clause. Maybe not for continuous play. Just, say, once every 15 minutes to ease us into our waning years with some warmth left in our hearts.
Oh, and one more little thing. My 4-year-old nephew strongly prefers his cotton candy “on a stick.”
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© Michael L. Collins
Originally published in the September 23, 2015 edition of The Mountain Press