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Ten Dollars for Lemonade

Otherwise Entitled: A Tale of Woe At the Fair


Whatever You Do Don't Go To The NM State Fair This Year

It's September. In Albuquerque that means three major events are happening: Green chile is roasting in front of every grocery store, the Balloon Fiesta is just around the corner, and it's State Fair time.

The State Fair here is a Big Deal. Ads on TV, streets blocked off, planning your attack kind of Big Deal.

And, who-waa! was I excited to revisit the State Fair. Back in my heady days of youth, we went every year. And it was always fun, even though we mostly just walked around and looked at stuff. Lot's of stuff. Fun vendors, weird food, twirling rides, horses jumping into metal tanks full of water, dancing in the Indian Village, quilts, dolls, models, paintings, animals, giant fruits and veggies. Like a modern day Charlotte's Web, spun full of magic and frosted with smiles.

I love the State Fair.

Until today.

We decided to come on a week day, during the day, to avoid some crowds. Upon arrival, we were pleased to see our plan was working. We parked 3 rows back from the entrance, mosy-ed up to the entrance, paid our 19 bucks and waltzed right in. Dazzle me! we begged with our peppy steps and perky smiles.

Not even 10 feet in, we were dealt our first crushing blow. You know that springy cage thing that snaps you up into the air where you bounce up and down like a Super Bouncy Ball? The ride that turns grown men into shrieking women? Well, that's parked right at the entrance, tantalizingly dangerous. I thought: Self, wouldn't that be fun to do with Josh? Yes, self, it would! And then I looked at the price placard and it said:

$25 for 2 (per person)
$30 for 1

And a little part of me died.

Fifty dollars! For 5 minutes of screaming?? That's 10 dollars a minute people!

Needless to say, that so did not happen.

Disdainful and mocking, we made our way to the midway - that magic land of twinkling, spinning rides that look like they might just fly off and kill you. Our merry group, still hoping for dazzlement, approached the ticket booth. And found a little sign that said:

No Day Passes This Year.

This was my face.


Except, I'm not a cat.

No little half plastic, half paper wrist bands? Seriously? The only ride-til-you-puke wristbands available were SEVENTY DOLLARS. I'm so not kidding. Now, granted, they were good for the whole fair duration. But, I'm not going to the fair every day. I'm going to the fair TO.DAY. ONLY. And I'm not spending SEVENTY DOLLARS PER PERSON for these rides. That's right, SEVENTY DOLLARS per person, even kids (which makes $280 for our family. DUDE!) (I totally checked my math on the calculator right there. And I'm still in shock. TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS!) So, since the ride-til-you-puke bands were out, we decide to buy $40 in tickets. And do you know how many tickets that is? Forty.

A dollar a ticket!?

Wait, wait, it gets worse.

So, forty tickets in hand, we make our way to the magical (wishing for a sarcasm font right there) midway. And, we notice, most of the rides are empty. Yay for us! And then we find out why: All the rides are 3-6 tickets. PER PERSON. And if you did the math up there ^^ you noticed that the tickets came out to be $1 per ticket. Which means even the crappy rides were THREE DOLLARS per person. And the good rides? SIX DOLLARS per person.

So at this point I'm pretty frustrated. I mean, at the very least $40 should have bought me more than 4o tickets. And, rides should be 1 ticket. Especially those crappy little kid rides. I mean, three tickets to ride the little baby roller coaster? Seriously?? (That's our word of the day, people, seriously.) So, we very carefully choose the few rides we're going to go on.

The Ferris Wheel is first. We're the only ones on it. The four of us and 24 other empty baskets. (Gosh I wonder why? Maybe because there are NO ALL DAY WRIST BANDS!) And it's nice on the Ferris Wheel. ABQ looks really pretty. And the breeze feels good. We're feeling a little better stepping off. And Josh goes on this flying ride where you lay on your stomach, and he likes that. Smiley, happy.

We're already down to 20 tickets.

So, Josh and I decide to use up 10 and go on the spinning-so-fast-you-get-stuck-to-the-side-ride. And that will be our last ride of the day. (I know, right? Seriously.) Eric takes Carly to the kiddy rides to use up her remaining tickets, Josh and I prepare to spin-so-fast-we-get-stuck. And we're pretty happy even though for both of us to ride this ride it is 10 tickets. Which, if you're keeping track, is TEN DOLLARS. Once again, we're the only people on the ride. Just me and Josh. I stick my sunglasses in my pocket and he gives me his knock-off crocs to hold and we're all giddy-like. And we start to spin. Yay! And we slide up the side. Yay! And the guy slows the ride down. And stops it. And we're on the ride for maybe 2 minutes, max. And Josh says:

"That's it?"

And, if you're keeping track again, that's five dollars a minute right there.

Not smiley! Not happy! Very not dazzled!

You see, I'd sold this NM State Fair as a State Fair of Epic Proportions. Fun! Prizes! Happiness! Worth a Half Day Off Work and School!

And, it is so not.

By this time we're all dying of thirst, after wandering around past all those rides we can't ride you know. So we search for a suitable drink vendor. And we can only find pop for three bucks or more. And we've passed a zillion vendors selling dollar store stuff for 10 bucks or more. We finally settle on a $10 dollar lemonade because it comes with 10 free refills. (That works out to $1 per drink, right?) We go inside this nice air conditioned building, all full of dollar store stuff vendors and As Seen on TV vendors. And we buy some seriously overpriced, mediocre and greasy Indian Fry Bread.

And all I'm thinking at this point is: Where are the farm animals and arts and crafts?

It gets a little better from this point because we do eventually find animals. Carly gets to ride a horse and drive a mini tractor, we find giant pumpkins and lots of smelly animals, and I find that someone I know won a second prize ribbon (Congrats!). But all of these wonderful things - the amazing craftsmanship of the woodworkers and painters and quilters and growers - are completely overshadowed by the complete lameness of the midway and food vendors. All the neat stuff is tucked way in the back, laid out in a nonsensical path, and there's so much plastic, flimsy crap crammed between them that you just want to give up.

So give up we did.

But not before Carly ate a $4 hot dog.


Pam said…
You really need to send this to a newspaper column there in NM. I am sure you are not the only one who had the same frustrations. I hate HATE when I get ripped off.
Anonymous said…
Sorry to disappoint you, but if you recall all the "family" (ie without dad of course!, and often without mom as she would torture herself and stay home with dad so he was not "lonley") trips we generally stayed far away from the ride portion, and I don't recall doing any more than riding the feris wheel because it has always been outrageously expensive - you could do Disneyland for less than the cost of the rides! I guess perhaps you were still to young back then to recognize the cost - not yet having to shoulder the responsibility of bills and such :) Your dad is laughing at you now!!
Heather said…
SERIOUSLY, laughing my can off. The fair is such a rip-off joke, and yet we still go every year. What's up with that??
Sarah said…
Pam - I think I'm gonna edit it a little (I mean, the cat's not really gonna translate to a newspaper submission) and send it in. To someone.

Cha-Cha - I DO remember not riding the rides and being disgruntled. I didn't have to pay for it then so I never paid any attention.

Heather - I don't know! But we won't be back next year unless they make some serious changes.
looneyschoony said…
I loved the state fair. I still have such fond memories of it. Maybe now that I am the one who has to pay for it, it is a good thing I am not in NM to see it.Of course as a kid we never really did a lot of the rides either, $70 will get you a 1 day pass to Disneyland. I was drooling over the mention of roasting New Mexico green chile, man, do I miss that!

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