Poetry Friday: Flying Jet Packs, Bacon Steak, and the Rule of Subtraction – What I learned at the State Fair, Part X

As you may know, I’m the PA announcer for our local state fair, which takes place every Labor Day Weekend from Thur. afternoon through Monday, Labor Day. It’s a roughly 55-hour weekend, and between oxen pulls, demo derbies, and giant pumpkins, it keeps me busy! With anywhere from 80,000 – 100,000 people attending, I’m letting folks know when the next musical performance is, how to get tickets for the monster truck show, or where the nearest ATM or bathroom can be found.

That’s a lot of talking – and, since I don’t use a booth, it’s also a lot of walking.

I recall using a FitBit or something like that one year and discovered I had walked 9 miles in just ONE DAY. And really, if one is going to consume a weekend’s worth of fair food, one needs to fit as much exercise in as possible, ha!

In amongst all my walking and talking, I always learn new things and make discoveries – and as is tradition here at the ol’ Triple-R, I share what I learn here. In the past I’ve told you about chainmail socks, the invincibility of teenagers, and the beautiful perfection of donut cones.

This year is no different, and I will be including a poem at the end of this post, for Poetry Friday!

Although this is my 10th year of sharing these little tidbits of knowledge (and my 12th year of announcing), it seems there’s never a dearth of things to learn about…

For the most part, food vendors tried to keep things affordable. It was nice to see that, in an age where inflation runs rampant and everything is 2-3 times more expensive than it used to be, fair food wasn’t dramatically overpriced. Most (not all, alas, but most) food vendors had only raised their prices by a buck or so, which was reasonable, considering the circumstances. There were some who didn’t post any of their prices – so you discovered the prices only once you got to the front of the line – but generally, vendors were pretty responsible.

Speaking of food, the giant stuffed baked potato remains the most perfect food on the planet. It’s got something from every food group, every food pyarmid level, every kind of vitamin and mineral you could possibly want – because just about every food item ever invented is on it. Heaven on a plate.

You may not be able to tell from the photo, but it was so big it probably weighed at least a pound. That’s how it felt sitting in my stomach, anyway. A good night.

Llamas can hum. As I’ve told you before, I always learn something new at the fair. I may not learn anything particularly useful, but I learn something new.

Giant pumpkin growers take their vocation seriously.

That large one on the left won 1st place at 1195 lbs. This year was a smaller year than normal.

I always make a point to chat with the farmers who specialzie in growing the giant pumpkins and they often share some of their tips with me: use good quality giant pumpkin seeds; till a good pile of compost into the ground in the fall, mulch it, and let it rest until spring; pull off any flower buds untill the vine is about 1-12 feet long, and then once you start seeing pumpkins growing, pull them all off except for the best-looking one.

Some have said they inject milk into the vines, others say to cover the fruit when in direct sun, as the skin hardens faster, preventing growth. And I could go on and on. I don’t know if any of this actually helps, but they sound like they know what they’re doing.

I want to do this when I grow up:

That’s right – water-powered jetpacks lifting stuntmen 50 feet in the air. It’s called the Jet Pack Flying Water Circus and it’s my next big career move. They are affiliated with the Nerveless Nocks, descendents of a famous Swiss acrobatic family and they have quite a reputation for putting on incredible shows!

Pay attention to the folks serving you and preparing your food. I ordered a sub from one of the vendors and after the guy took my money and gave me my change, he grabbed a roll and started making my sandwich. Bare hands, the entire time. One would think after what the country has gone through over the past two years, people wouldn’t be this stupid – but apparently they are. That was a big NOPE for me.

“Bacon steak” is a thing. Somehow, over an entire 5-day weekend, I never got around to trying this or even taking a picture, but there was a food vendor selling what they called bacon steak: a one-to-two inch slab of bacon that was cut into giant chunks, put on a skewer, and deep-fried. It was $15 per serving. Did I mention it was deep-fried? I think I remember now why I never tried it. (Hey, even I have my limits!)

Robots have invaded the state fair. Being an agricultural fair, there is a very large 4-H presence here – with horses, cattle, sheep, rabbits, and just about every other farm animal represented. We also have an entire building devoted to showing off the 4-H projects on display, from arts and crafts to vegetables.

But this year, we had robots!

The local 4-H Robotics was on hand to show fair attendees what they do, what they are learning, and how the robots they have created function. This particular team has won numerous awards, too, so it was wonderful to be able to chat with them and see their robots in action. Bonus: none of the robots tried to launch an uprising, which was a relief.

Glazed donut burgers aren’t as awesome as you might think. I keep hearing people saying how incredible glazed donut cheeseburgers are (whereby you use a sliced glazed donut in place of a normal bun). The one I tried – for the first time in my life – was mediocre. And I know it wasn’t the burger, cooked by a friend of mine who operates a food truck, and I know it wasn’t the donut, either, because I know the folks who make the giant donuts, too, which are phenomenal. Alas, the glazed donut burger was less than sum of its parts. Glad I tried it, but not worth trying again.

Chainsaw carving follows the Rule of Subtraction. This is according to master chainsaw carver Ben Risney, who is a regular fixture here at the fair. He takes huge logs like these…

…and turns them into works of art like these:

What Ben means by the “Rule of Subtraction” is that he always has to be aware of what he’s cutting, because the entire process is a process of removal – once it’s cut, it’s cut! There is no, “Oh wait, let me put this piece back.” Every sculpture is created using nothing but chainsaws – he has many different size saws, but no chisels, no picks, no knives.

And if you think these sculptures are incredible, also consider the fact that each one is completed in the time it takes for Ben to do a demonstration – 45 minutes to an hour! He’s amazing AND fast.

So in keeping with today’s “fair” theme, I thought I’d share a fair-themed poem with you for Poetry Friday. This one was actually written specifically for a fair by Leslie Ball, a writer and singer from Minnesota who wrote this poem for the Minnesota State Fair:

The Fair is a Living Thing
.

Just past six a.m.

Light starting to leak into the sky.

They predict rain.

We don’t care.

Today is day one of our beloved State Fair.

People already streaming onto the grounds.

Three teenage boys cross in front of us, each wearing a feed cap, Each leading a newly shorn lamb.

We hike past the old Machinery Hill…
.

– © 2006 Leslie Ball, all rights reserved (read the rest of the poem HERE)

.

I would also encourage you to check out “Country Fair” by Charles Simic, one of the preeminent poets from our state and the former U.S. Poet Laureate who succeeded the late, great Donald Hall, also from New Hampshire, in that role. It’s less about a country fair and more about the side shows, but it’s worth reading and contemplating.

Looking for more poetry? My friend Kat Apel is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup from Down Under – at her blog, Kat’s Whiskers! She shares some updates as to what she’s been doing recently, between book festivals and book releases, poetry swaps and picture book polishing!

Me? I’m just excited for what’s about to happen in just one month:

COMING SOON…

Arriving everywhere books are sold on Oct. 18 from Beaming Books!

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Be sure to PRE-ORDER my upcoming new
creative nonfiction picture book,
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BEING HUMAN

(Beaming Books, Oct. 2022)!

Order a PERSONALLY-SIGNED copy of my latest picture book, I AM TODAY (POW! Kids Books),
or ANY of my books from my local independent bookstore!

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Be sure to check out all the cool new picture books arriving this year from my PB22Peekaboo partners!

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I’m very happy to be part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Astra Young Readers, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click here to view all my books and to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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16 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Flying Jet Packs, Bacon Steak, and the Rule of Subtraction – What I learned at the State Fair, Part X

  1. I think I gained five pounds just reading your post, Matt! And those wood sculptures…incredible! Somewhere I have a picture book manuscript set at a state fair. I may have to update it based on all these new foods and events.

    Like

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed reading all about the fair — who wouldn’t, with miniature donkeys, humming llamas, robots, stuffed potatoes, donut burgers — and those chainsaw carvings are amazing! I’d pass on that bacon on a stick thing, though . . . thanks for the report and the poem, Mr. Announcer Man. 🙂

    Like

  3. I’m all for the baked potato, but will firmly pass on the donut-burger. Those chainsaw creations are amazing! Hard to believe that he gets the detail on that racoon with a chainsaw! Thanks for the highlights and insights

    Like

  4. lindabaie

    I haven’t been to a state fair for a long time, but remember it all so fondly. They didn’t have all the deep-fried things then, but one thing I remember loving was a pineapple ice cream at the dairy barn. Thanks for sharing so much, Matt. The chainsaw art is phenomenal, a favorite to see. Also, glad you survived that potato extravaganza & the walking!

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  5. I love me a good state fair. We go almost every year. I submit poetry and photos. So fun to see the farm animals and eat the fair food. Sadly, the chickens couldn’t be there this year because of avian flu. Thanks for sharing your experience ( and ew..to a sandwich made without gloves)

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  6. Matt, I have not been at a state fair in years so I always love to hear about the NH Fair experience. I can’t imagine all the varieties of food you consumed but it must have been fun. I was truly amazed by the chainsaw artist’s work. Thanks for sharing all the fun you had. I look forward to reviewing your new book soon.

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