RE bids farewell to the Alaska State Fair

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on August 28, 2016

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I am just back from the Alaska State Fair.  This one was my last.

The first 6 years I was up here I HAD to go to the Fair.  Every year the gym I was Head Coach for at that time does a show there.  The second gym did shows there maybe once or twice before I was working for them, but by the time I switched to that gym the owner had quit doing the show.  His gym did not compare well to our gym and another gym from Anchorage, Arctic Gymnastics. I went for two more years on my own, one year I shot a bunch of pics and did some video interviews with different booth operators to make an article for the Diner.

Hosp_BedThen last year the Fair opened on the day I got my neck operated on and even after I got out of the hospital I was in no shape to go cruising around the Fair at that time.  When I publish this article tomorrow on August 28th, that will be precisely the day I went under the knife.  I really was hot to try out my Ewz for crusing the fairgrounds, which are HUGE.  As State Fairs go this is one of the biggest, and it's a major Tourist Attraction for the state.  Many relatives of AK residents come up to visit during the 2 weeks the fair runs for.I

A year later here I am not in a whole lot better shape than I was after the operation, none of the hoped for improvements materialized.  On the upside though, I am not that much worse off, and the operation did get paid for by my Obamacare Insurance and Workman's Comp Insurance, split about equally between the two insurance companies.  I also got a decent settlement and my SSDI Bennies and Pension have kicked in.  So at least for now I am not worried about ending up as a Homeless Cripple Freezing to Death on the streets of Palmer, Alaska.

Another reason I anticipated going to the fair this year is to watch two of my star gymmies, who are graduating Seniors this year.  I began with them when they wrere around 6 or 7 years old. This would be my last opportunity to see them perform in all likelihood, although one of them may compete in college.  Even there't though, I don't go to college meets or watch them on TV either.

The day began well, in that is was a warm sunny day today after most of the summer being filled with overcast drizzly days.  However, things quickly went south after that.

RE-EwzThe first issue was getting the Ewz into the SUV to drive to the fairgrounds.  This wasn't an EZ task before the neck injury, now it is a major trial.  It took me about 20 minutes of fighting with it to get it into the back.  By the time I succeeded I was so exhausted I had to go back in the digs and rest for a half an hour before getting going on the drive.

The next issue was the TRAFFIC getting there.  Normally it is around a 15 minute drive from where I live to the fairgrounds.  In this case, I hit Bumper to Bumper traffic about halfway there, and the rest of the drive took over an hour.  I didn't even drive all the way to the farigrounds parking lot which is its own traffic nightmare, I pulled into a Taco Bell parking lot about a half mile away and took the scooter out there.  Fortunately, taking the scooter out of the SUV is easier than getting it in.

There is no Bike Path or sidewalk along this stretch of the Glenn Highway though, so I had to ride on the shoulder, which is nerve wracking.  I did finally arrive at the fairgrounds in one piece, but now I am already exhausted and in a bad mood.  Once inside, the pathways were so packed with people that I had to go slow walking speed on barely doing 2mph maybe.  My throttle hand which is my bad right arm is starting to cramp up, and now I am sitting so long on the seat that my butt starts to hurt too!  Plus it is downright hot for Alaska and I am starting to sweat, which I hate. It takes me about another 20 minutes to negotiate my way through the pedestrian traffic to my traditional food booth which sells Deep Fried Halbut.  The line is relatively short, this is good, but it takes a solid 15 minutes waiting time after that for my order to be ready.  Meanwhile, there is no shade and I am sitting baking in the hot sun, and sweating some more.

The order finally comes up, the traditional 3 pieces of deep fried halibut, french fries and a large coke.  $18 for this meal this year, when I got to Alaska it was $10.  So that was an 80% increase over 10 years, about 7% year inflation including compounding interest.  I wait another 5 minutes for the halibut and fries to cool before eating them, they come straight out of the fryer as they are made to order and they are scalding hot and will burn your mouth if you eat them right away.

Then I start to eat them, and discover with my now depressed appetite I can barely finish 2 of the Halibut pieces and no fries.  They are also saltier than I remember from past years and the halibut wasn't as tender as I recall either.  I do not enjoy the meal very much. Next issue is to park my butt somewhere near the corral where the gymnastics performance with take place, but I can't find any benches in the shade so I am still baking in the sun.  I also need to stay pretty close to a bathroom because when I get nature's call I have to get there fast!  In this case I was fortunate because while waiting I did have to go, and I was able to get right in to one of the two Handicap Accessible bathrooms with no wait.  Outside the regular Women's bathroom, the queue was about 15 minutes long.  I am not sure what bathroom LGBT people were using at the fair. lol.

Then back to the bench with still a half hour to go before the performance.  One of the mom's I know drops by to talk along with the two gymmies she has who tell me all the skills they are working on.  Then the gymmies leave and mom and I talk about SUN☼.  Then I start feeling nauseous and faint and HAVE to get out of the sun.  I go around the back of a building where there is shade but no benches, lean the scooter up against the wall and sit on the center part.  Getting up from so low is hard, but it was my only choice.  After about 15 minutes I am feeling a little better, just in time to watch the performance.  However, it is packed at the fence and in the bleachers and I am in the second row of people standing.   I have to crane my neck to peer between necks to even get a peak at what it s going on.  Definitely cannot shoot any pics or video.

Overall of what I did see, I wasn't impressed.  The show they do has become rather formula from stuff I showed them on how to set up this type of demo.  On the Cheer side, that has really deteriorated since the owner's son broke away to start his own Cheer Gym in Anchorage.  They no longer field the top level Senior Division one or the Open Divisiion teams.  The oldest kid on the Cheer team now is 14, and no Co-Ed squads either.

Denali Cheer Team heyday 2009

Far as pics and vid are concerned, I brought my camera but all along the way I was too pooped to shoot any pics, and there really weren't any good ones to take anyhow.  The place was so packed all you would get are pics of crowds of people milling around.  Taking pictures of booths is pretty boring, and I've done that already.  I can pull up Stock Photos off Google like the one heading this post.  The booths there pretty much never change, and I didn't have energy to negotiate all the pathways through the crowds either.  At this point I just want to GET HOME.

So I head back out of the place, slightly faster than I got in because the crowds had thinned out by 6PM or so.  Then back on the Glenn Highway shoulder to Taco Bell.  Here I was able to enlist the aid of a fellow waiting for his wife to come out of TB to help get the Ewz back into the SUV, so that was a big help.

So now I am back in the digs at the keyboard writing about the day, and realizing somewhat sadly there is absolutely no reason to go back to another Alaska State Fair.  I've seen the Old Tractors, I've seen the Big Vegetables, I've seen the Crafts and I've eaten the Halibut.  I'm not a Family Tourist Guide leading around relatives from the Lower 48 and I no longer have the responsibility of setting up a performance of gymnastics.  So it is time to say goodbye to the Alaska State Fair for RE.