Opinion » Bill Cope

Scenes From the Fair

Time to man the booth again


(By the time you read this, the state fair will be as much yesterday's news as the one-year anniversary of Katrina, the first day of school and the ridiculous show staged by that John Carr mutant. So why write about it? Because around this time of year, I'm willing to take even a semi-bright spot, and even if it's on yesterday's horizon. It's like a seasonal depression thing, I think, only it runs from late August until the first frost. Nothing good happens this time of year. School starts, hurricanes hit, gardens go to seed, lawns go to crabgrass, Republicans go to shrieking about terror threats ... if I had my way, I'd sleep straight through from mid-August to Election Day. It's entirely possible that the stupid fair, as bad as it is, is the best thing to happen around this time of year. So that's why I'm writing about it. Hell, I may write about it next week, too. And the week after that. If you don't like it, sue me!)

• I didn't learn anything new at the fair this year. Not much, anyway. Once more, the Copes combined civic duty with family fun by manning the Ada County Democrats booth, but not before we spent a couple of hours wandering through the stock barns and up and down the avenues of merchandise. Seems like each year, the stock barns are a bit less and the merchandising is a bit more. But I already knew rural Idaho is being elbowed out by hot tub hawkers and cell phone salesmen. If it weren't for the outer territories--your Melbas and Parmas, Homedales and Weisers--I imagine pet hamsters and fat pigeons in a cage would already out-number pigs and sheep and Holsteins. Someday, I suppose, the only animals there will be the kind you can buy at Zamzows and carry home in a sack.

• There was a tent with a sandwich board sign that said "Smallest Horse Around" and my daughter felt like she had to see it. I'm pretty sure it was the same tent that held the "Largest Steer Around" last year. She had to see that one, too. Both times, I went in with her, and both times, the most exciting thing about the experience was that it only cost 50 cents to get in. That's a good deal at the fair. What else can you get at the fair for 50 cents? True, it would have been more accurate to advertise them as "Pretty Big Steer" and "A Somewhat Smallish Horse," rather than making it sound like they were Guinness World Book material. But I knew before we ever entered the tent that we were throwing our money away. Honestly, is there anything you get at the fair that doesn't make you feel like you're throwing your money away?

• Then we went to work the booth, except for my daughter, who met up with a pal and the two of them disappeared for the rest of the evening. But I could see that coming. No surprise, there. She used to love perching on a stool in the booth with Mom and Dad, and she could hand out bumper stickers and "Proud To Be a Democrat" hand fans like a champ. But anymore, teenagers don't want to be seen hanging out at the fair with Mom and Dad. Especially by other teenagers. And it's hard to imagine there were any teenagers from Caldwell to Mountain Home who weren't at the fair that night. It was like Bangladesh for teenagers.

• I did learn that the fair directors have a new policy concerning bumper stickers. Which is: no bumper stickers. Seems like teenagers have been taking all the bumper stickers and sticking them all over so that fair grounds employees spend the next month scraping them off walls and urinals and whatever. So we Democrats had no bumper stickers to hand out. We complied with the rule. The Republican booth, in contrast, went right ahead and handed out bumper stickers. Evidently, all Republicans are now following Bush's example (which would make a good bumper sticker): "Rules are fine ... just not for us."

• The Republican booth was back-to-back with the Democrat booth. It's that way every year. We can't see one another, but I always take a walk around to see who's there. Bill Sali was there. That was no surprise, either. He was working the fair crowd last year, too, and at the time, I stopped and talked with him. I didn't do that this year. He was talking to someone else--most likely someone who wanted him to win. This was just two days after Cheney blew into Boise just long enough to make it look like a toilet break, and I'm guessing Bill was still on a nice high for having so recently stood cheek-to-cheek with the Vice President of the United States. He still had that "aprés Cheney" glow.

• During the time I was actually in the booth and not wandering around to see who was there, three teenage boys leaned on the counter and started asking my wife stupid questions. All three were wearing their baseball caps at odd angles--every which way but right--and they thought they were being cute, I'm sure. My wife has no patience with either stupid questions or cocky brats, so she passed them on to me. They were asking questions like, "Bush is a Republican, isn't he?" "Bill Clinton is a Democrat, isn't he?" I answered all their questions and I didn't let on how stupid I thought they were. Wasn't easy, let me tell you. But as far as being surprised? No. It's no surprise to me that kids who think it's cute to wear baseball caps sideways don't know beans about who leads the nation.

• One of the times I was wandering around to see who was there, I ran into some old friends of mine, Pam and Bob. I don't believe they would mind me using their names. They weren't doing anything wrong. In fact, they were manning a booth, themselves. The "Idaho Votes No" booth. "Idaho Votes No" is an organization trying to talk Idahoans into voting down the proposed amendment to the Idaho constitution. You know, the one that would make gays and lesbians permanent bench-warmers in the marriage game. Bob and Pam aren't gays or lesbians. Their kids have kids. I went to high school with Bob 40 years ago. He was a farm boy, and that was back when kids knew how to wear a baseball cap properly. Pam and Bob told me something I didn't know. It's about that anti-gay amendment to the constitution, and I was genuinely surprised. I figure most everyone else will be surprised, too, when they find out. But I'll wait until next week to write about it. That way, I won't have to write another piece about the stupid Western Idaho State Fair. And if you don't like the slapdash, ho-hum nature of the piece you just read ... well, I told you nothing good happened this time of year, didn't I?