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Fair offers little fun at high cost


Most kids see the fair with a fantastic sense of wonder. It is like a dreamland filled with endless corn dogs, cotton candy, unlimited spins on the tilt-a-whirl and a couple rounds of “throw the spring-loaded ring on the glass bottle.”

Another round of deep-fried Oreos? Yes please, mom.

But at some undefined point in life, all of that changes.

That roller coaster becomes a steel cage housing certain death, and one ride on anything called “Ring of Fire” could have a
grown-up running for the nearest trashcan.

There is something about hitting that stage of maturity that sucks the fun out of a fair, and a capacity for logical thought can make it impossible to have fun.

Thursday marked the opening of the Florida State Fair. Perhaps I was just in the mood for a
foot-long corn dog, but this year felt like the right time to lose my “state fair virginity.”

Though my first experience was not entirely miserable, in the future, I would consider avoiding this place at all costs. And there are a lot of costs.

Stepping onto the fairgrounds is like stepping into another world. Once past the $13 fee just to get in, the expenses continue to pile up. Tickets are roughly $1 each, but for the steel-stomached or just plain inhuman, there is an unlimited ride wristband for $30.

But anyone who can handle more than three rides deserves some kind of award. These are the kinds of rides that have the ominous appearance of impending doom that foreshadows exactly what the riders will experience once they get off.

The food is what drew me in, but for the high price, it is less than impressive. For starters, there are seemingly so many code violations swirling about that it almost doesn’t make sense to eat here. Why would anyone willingly eat such a greasy meal immediately before getting on a spinning tornado amusement ride?

It’s like “The Sandlot,” where the kids eat a bunch of chewing tobacco, get on the Music Express and puke on themselves, except the chewing tobacco is a cheeseburger, and I’m throwing up on my girlfriend.

Though the sticker shock was enough to keep the desire to return at bay, there were a few high points to my first Florida State Fair experience — in particular, the freak show.

For a well-spent $3, fairgoers can see a sword swallower, a dancing fat man and much more in a charmingly horrible circus
sideshow performance. Save the extra dollar when they try to lure you into Dr. Frankenstein’s room of human torture, though Dr. Frankenstein merely sticks two thin needles through his skin, which is much less of an exhibition of pain tolerance and closer to my second grade best friend’s favorite magic trick.

An often-overlooked portion of the fair is the expo center. Bottles of lotion, fine leather belts and premium titanium cookware are sold side-by-side in one of the most hilarious sales conventions ever to be organized. It’s like the Swap Shop, but with “Nitro Coffee” and salespeople who won’t bargain with you.

For college students, the Florida State Fair can be a bit of an investment, especially without mom and dad’s wallet around. Fortunately, today is College Day and is definitely the best night to attend the fair. Saving the $13 cover charge and $10 on an armband will be worth it. Plus you can catch a free Sister Hazel concert.

The Florida State Fair will be in town until Monday. For more information, visit