by MICHAEL BOWEN AND ANN M. COLFORD & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ack in 1977, the official slogan of the Spokane County Interstate Fair was "Yum Yum - Yahoo - Oink." (Someone was actually paid to come up with this.) In 1996, the 280,000 people who attended the fair were subjected to "Bee Bop a Moo Moo."
Well, the bees have bopped their way back. The artwork for this year's fair features lots of honey and the cutest little winged insects. We're assured that the event will be "UnBEElievably Fun for Everyone!" and that the fair "is sure to BEE a honey of a deal." "The hive," we're told, "is indeed a-buzzin'."
I don't know about you, but by this point, I feel an irresistible urge to sting someone. I'm pretty sure that funny intestinal feeling is my thorax disengaging from my abdomen.
1. Talk to the Animals
I grew up a suburban kid, and the most exotic critters around -- not counting my neighbor's pet boa constrictor, Arthur -- were the two or three small ponies that used to trot around their fenced-in barnyard at the entrance to my neighborhood. The barnyard was about all that remained of an old family farmstead that had been entirely surrounded by subdivisions and 1950s ranchers and split-levels. As kids, we'd watch the ponies from one side of the fence and they'd watch us from the other, and that was as far as the interaction went.
So it's probably not surprising that I find large farm animals exotic. Sure, I know what cows and pigs look like, but there's something about their proximity at the fair that really drives home to me their full corporeal nature: These animals are massive. I know that's not breaking news to those of you who grew up on a farm.
Perhaps even more exotic to me are the youngsters -- those 4-Hers and FFAs -- who raise a cow or a pig as a project and then show them at the fair. I mean, here's a little kid maybe half my size getting in a pen with a cow the size of a minivan, and then leading the cow around and convincing her to go where the kid wants her to go. Amazing. I have enough trouble dealing with animals small enough for me to pick up -- I can't imagine bossing around Bossy.
2. Can You Can Too?
Not only did I grow up in the suburbs -- I also grew up in an age when supermarkets full of commercially canned and frozen foods were still considered something of a progressive technological wonder. Sure, my grandparents' generation had known all about preserving food, and those skills had helped them feed their kids -- my parents -- through the Great Depression. But in the post-war boom of the '50s and '60s, canning was pass & eacute; and old fashioned. Thanks to Clarence Birdseye and his cohorts, modern suburban families could buy all the vegetables and fruits they'd ever need in the chilled aisles of the A & amp;P.
So, again I find myself drawn to the unfamiliar, something from an earlier time -- those heavy glass jars filled with a rainbow of fruits and jams and pickles and vegetables, foods that have been lovingly harvested, washed, cut and preserved for the coming winter. At the fair, I wander down warmer aisles, admiring both the beauty and the bounty in those Mason jars. As singer-songwriter Greg Brown wrote, "Taste a little of the summer / my grandma put it all in a jar."
And now, we seem to be coming full circle -- preserving food is an important skill for those who seek to eat more local foods and fewer processed products. Canning isn't done just by those who never left the farm or those throwbacks who went back to the land 40 years ago; it's being rediscovered. After all, if you're the person who put the food in the jar, then you know where your food came from.
3. Rock 'em Sock 'em Road Cars
Two little boys playing with toy trucks. Do they hold truck races in neat parallel lanes? They do not. What fun would that be? Better to smash the fenders and see if you can crack the other kid's windshield.
That's the primal appeal of demolition derby. Just as there's no crying in baseball, there are no traffic safety rules in demo derby. Strap in, gun the accelerator, brace for impact. It's carnival time, after all: recess for dads and sons, a brief play period in which rules can be flouted or simply ignored. Little boys love it so much, root beer comes flying out their noses.
Last year, the Fair held only one car-crash extravaganza. Think it was popular? They're comin' at ya with not one but three of these events this time, including the motorcycle demo derby, which one Fair employee assures us is "not a real violent thing." (Reassuring, then, for the motorcycle riders as well.)
Demolition derbies at the Fair: Saturday, Sept. 15, at 4 pm (motorcycles) and at 7 pm (compact cars). Traditional demo derby: Sunday, Sept. 16, at 4 pm.
4. Disco Infernals
Trivia time: Hey, kids, can you name all six "roles" played by the Village People? (Answers below, and no fair turning back a page.)
The ironic beauty of "YMCA" -- which is about the only song that most folks think the Village People ever did -- is that it gets all those nice, respectable suburban moms and dads waving their arms at ballgames (kids, too!) in vocal support of exactly the sort of thing that Larry Craig is accused of doing in public restrooms.
Because back in 1978 -- back before AIDS, back when the Young Men's Christian Association allowed in only men and mostly Christians -- your local YMCA (or at least the one in Greenwich Village) was a great place to go on a cruise, and we're not talking about the Royal Caribbean.
Of course, that was nearly 30 years ago. It's been 15 years since the People have had a major comeback; just three years ago, though, they toured very successfully with Cher. We hear it was simply fabulous.
Oh, yeah, the iconic roles: Cop, cowboy, Indian, soldier, (or sailor) biker, construction worker. Out of six Macho Men possible, how well did you score with the Village People?
The Village People will have you waggling your arms overhead on Monday, Sept. 10, at 7 pm in the Grandstand Arena.
Come see what's buzzin' at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, Broadway Avenue and Havana Street, on Sept. 7-15 from 10 am-10:30 pm and on Sept. 16 from 10 am-8 pm. Tickets: $8; $5, seniors and children (ages 7-13); free (children 6 and younger). Visit www.spokanecounty.org/fair or call 477-1766.