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5 Things I Love About the Barnstable County Fair

Photo by Stephen C. Atkinson - The ferris wheel reflected in the author's lenses.Photo by Grace Vose - The ubiquitous corn dog never disappoints.Photo courtesy of Duane Alves - DJ Alvzie aka Duane Alves was one of the fearless souls who competed in this year’s Demolition Derby.Photo courtesy of Duane Alves - The crowd cheers for DJ Alvzie, in Car 007, and the rest of the battered line up.Photo courtesy of Duane Alves - The after effects of the derby.

The county fair is a true American tradition chock full of dangerous thrills, farm animals, and defiantly unhealthy food options. I hadn’t been in a few years. I don’t have kids and was feeling a little too old for it. This year a good friend of mine donated his derelict Ford Tempo to the Demolition Derby. So like Romans flocking to the coliseum to experience the catharsis of carnage, my wife and I, along with some friends, headed to that dusty, noisy wonderland known as the Barnstable County Fair. Here are five things I love about the fair.

1. The Rides

Some stiffs will tell you that you should only trust the rides at big amusement parks like Six Flags or Disney World. These naysayers will claim that county fair rides are, “old and unsafe,” or “poorly maintained death-traps.”  Well DUH! That’s what makes them awesome. Anyone can climb into a state-of-the-art Spiderman themed rollercoaster at some lame corporate park, take the ride and buy the overpriced photo at the end. It takes a true thrillseeker to climb into a 1970s era ride that is partially held together by bubble gum and caution tape. Climbing into the Zipper is taunting fate.


2. The Demolition Derby

I’m sort of surprised this is legal. I’m more surprised no one was seriously injured. Two rows of cars lined up and proceed to smash into each other until they no longer could. It’s what I imagine a Libertarian traffic intersection would look like.

3. The Food

Timing is key when both eating large amounts of greasy food and also getting on rides that violently throw your body around. Consuming a corn dog while in line for the Gravitron is not advised but the food is a very important element of a fair experience. Giant lemonades are my drink of choice and I’m a sucker for a sketchy looking cheesesteak. This year I noticed the fair is going more gourmet. We visited a stand selling grass fed beef sliders and Vermont cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches. We got onion rings, which were delicious, but took so long to make, I ate a corndog from a neighboring concession stand while I waited. I appreciate raising the culinary bar but this is the fair; you gotta hustle, people!  Also, your stand should have bright lights, airbrushed art and bold claims like, “undisputed world’s greatest” or “world’s biggest.”

4.The Music

I once saw the band Survivor play the county fair. They are an 80s band known for hits like Eye of the Tiger and…well pretty much just Eye of the Tiger. All joking aside they were pretty good and played an epic twenty minute version of Eye of the Tiger.

This year I caught a local band on the side stage called Mid-Life Crisis. They were playing a spot- on cover of the Rancid song Ruby Soho. In my humble opinion, this is a much better way to spend your mid-life crisis than buying a convertible and getting an earring. Well done.

5. The Nostalgia

It’s the lights, the smells, the screams and bad hair metal emanating from the rides, the wino clown in the drunk tank. Being there feels a bit like walking through a Stephen King story or a Bruce Springsteen song. It’s a place teeming with joy and dark shadows. The fair sells everything from eternal salvation to hot tubs. Seriously, does anyone actually buy hot tubs from a county fair?

At the end of the night, we walked through the grass parking lot to our car with mild headaches and indigestion, feeling a little ripped off and wondering why we went to the fair in the first place. I’m not sure why but I think I’ll be back next year. And next year can they PLEASE bring back the Steak on a Stick?!