Do you have a favourite kitschy delight, a guilty pleasure that you don’t own up to very quickly?
Saturday I went with Owen and Lily to one of mine, the Calgary Stampede. The “greatest outdoor show on earth” has genuine cowboy roots and the rodeo is as gritty as you get. But the rest of the exhibition is cheesy central – and I still love it.
The people-watching is probably my favourite part – I love gawking at the huge diversity of people. Even at a “cowboy” event, you see a nice stretch of humanity. You’ve got your cowboys and cowboy-wannabes, cowgirls and the hardly-wearing-anything-but-my-hat sirens. There was a tatted-up Goth chick with a nice touch of plaid, the Sudanese family decked out in new white Stetsons (the black and white contrast was stunning), all the cute-as-a-button toddler cowpokes and so many more.
Of course there’s the food, where you can easily scarf down your daily caloric intake within an hour (I’m sure some Stampede by-law exists stipulating nothing healthy or fresh can be served up). Seriously, eating food at the Stampede is like a brief version of Morgan Spurlock’s movie “Super size me.” The whole midway is one big artery clogging deep fryer where your options are basically two: highly refined sugars or highly processed meats, all with the option of being deep fried. Would you like fries with that?
Where else do you get something called wiggle chips or a deep fried Oreo cookie (outstanding, by the way). Awaiting you is every choice of all the awful food you just love – corn dogs, cotton candy (this is simply mainlining sugar), bags of mini-donuts, meat on a stick (so primal), deep-fried jelly beans (next year I’m going for these), snow-cones, candy apples (bordering on healthy here), even fried cheese. And I pretty much let the kids have whatever they wanted.
Owen and Lily loved all of the farm animals up close and even put up with all their smells. We took in a few rides and Owen took back a few cheap prizes along with a slightly more valuable sense of pride at having won the prizes. And along with the smells, the sounds are so fun.
If you get a chance to go to an exhibition or fair like this, find a noisy place, close your eyes and listen for a while. You hear the clunk and grind of rides, animal sounds (nothing better than the clip-clop of horses hooves on pavement), the game barkers calling out, the strains of a fiddle playing somewhere, cries of a tired baby, the hollering of some kid hopped up on who knows how much sugar (uh, that would be my son), the scuffle and shuffle of boots and shoes, and screams of delight up in some ride.
It’s all a quite lovely, kitschy cacophony of gladness. And I’ll probably go again next year.