Monday, July 23, 2007

Fair and balanced

There was a time when the only people looking to fleece your money at the Saratoga County Fair were the side-stepping carnies skulking around by the games of chance. As long as you steered clear of those folks, an evening could run as cheap as $20 for a gut full of fair chum and a few spins on the Gravitron. Oh, how the times have changed.

These days, just walking into the fair will run you a ten-spot. Jumping on any of the stock amusement park rides costs four bucks a shot, while just about any item of food will run about six. All in all, it takes a mighty deep pocket to roll through the fair for any length of time. And if you’re unlucky enough to have a Dodge caravan full of rugrats, you’ll probably have to place a second mortgage on the house before heading over to the fairgrounds.

Yes, the times have changed and life is always getting more expensive. Ask any business owners and they’ll give you some rigmarole about increasing fuel costs and the booming housing market. Slather all this with a healthy topping of inflation and you have why a family outing at the fair costs about as much as a plane ticket to Vegas, where there are just as many people eager to dip into your pocket.

Of course there’s a much more cost-effective way to cash in on the fun: simply go on the last day. Despite boasting a morning-to-midnight hours of operation on all their advertising literature, fair officials signaled to pack it all up three hours early on a beautiful Sunday evening and with a robust crowd still milling about. All the ticket booths were closed and haggard fair workers were simply letting people jump on the rides free of cost as they started the breakdown process. Score one for the fiscally strapped.

It’s perfectly understandable why they would start cleaning up early on the last day, given the overall demeanor of the fair folk. Most of them seemed about as interested in keeping the place open as the standard citizen in reading volumes of tax code. Also, closing the beer garden early probably cut the fair’s aggregate blood alcohol content by several hundredths of a percentage point.

Director Dick Rowland probably crunched some numbers during the evening demolition derby and saw he was in the black after two busy days on the weekend, thus justifying an early departure on the last night. After all, what kind of a freak goes to a goddamn fair just a couple hours before midnight on a Sunday. Still, if the fair closes early on the last day, do these freaks a favor and explain this in advance; they might want to take chunderous spin on the Gravitron before the carnies leave town.

On an unrelated side note, the Gravitron was one of the rides unavailable to latecomers. As a genius carnie explained in a succinct cardboard note pasted on the front of the machine, “Gravitron is broke down.” Classic carny.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back when you had to pay for parking and admission, a friend told me the sure fired way to cover these costs. Tell the people in the ticket booth that you were there to work in the "Republican Booth" and you got in for free. It worked for a few years - then they started handing out free tickets to those who were actually 'working the booth.'

2:28 PM  

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