Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Corn Dogs, Critters & Clowns, oh my!!!

Last week was the Iowa State Fair. As in the 'our state fair is a great state fair' fair. We win the fair competition, hands down. Nobody does it better. I love the fair. So much so that I set my second Tressa Jayne Turner mystery, Calamity Jayne Rides Again, at the state fair.

I have a long term relationship with fairs. As a child I used to spend time (and my meager allowance) at the fair watching the horse shows, eating taffy and caramel apples and funnel cakes, and getting sick on rides like the octopus and the tea cups and the tilt-a-whirl--or the tilt-a-hurl as it was known once I vacated the ride. I can handle the roller coasters, but put me in a tight, fast spinning object and I'm guaranteed to do the 'ralph' routine. But did that stop me? What do you think?

I was also a big fan of the midway games. I don't think I ever won anything other than a goldfish--which was floating on the top of the water and already stinky by the time I got home--and a lame plastic booby prize despite the amount of moolah I invested. When my cousin won the great big purple snake I had lusted after for years I was devastated. (Picture me fantasizing about wrapping said snake around her neck and tightening.) I take my carney games very seriously.

My attachment to the fair carried on into adulthood. My very first year as a state trooper I was assigned fair duty for the two week run of the fair. Never a fan of clowns it was at the state fair as a 'green' brown shirt that I had a run-in with a dunk tank clown with a death wish that was inspiration for a memorable moment in my book.

As a rookie trooper you are assigned a field training officer for the first several months. My FTO always worked the fair so my second month on the patrol found me patroling the fairgrounds in golf carts and on foot. It was during one of the foot patrols on the midway that the infamous clown caper took place. I was walking with my partner down through the various games when we walked by The Great Bobo. Sitting behind the traditional chain-link enclosure in his garish makeup, propped on the seat above a tank of water, the caustic clown hurled insults at fair goers as they walked by courtesy of microphone and speakers that broadcast his hurtful comments in surround sound.

I shook my head as he inquired of one stout fair goer if he was going to enter the biggest boar contest that year, dismissing the bozo as I strolled on by, yet thankful that I wasn't fodder for his Bobo barbs. After all, I was a peace officer. A state trooper. I was in uniform. I was protecting and serving the public. I was off limits to the verbal abuse. Or so I thought. Rookie.

"Hey, lady trooper! You look like someone trooped over your face!" Blared out over the loudspeakers on either side of the clown cage. "Hey lady trooper! You got your bullet in your pocket?"

I stopped and stared at the made up maniac. He couldn't be talking to me.

"Is he talking to me?" I asked my FTO who nodded. "Is he nuts?" I asked. He shrugged.

He must be. He had to be. Because the insults continued. I won't recite them all here. It's too painful. But with each insult I got madder and madder.

Didn't he realize I was packing a 357 Magnum (with six rounds and two speed loaders on my gunbelt) and knew how to use it? Didn't he see the gold badge on my shirt? The handcuffs on my belt? The mace? I pulled my sunglasses off my face and gave him my best, 'back off, bozo' stare. He didn't miss a beat. And the crowd was loving it.

I took several 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore' steps towards The Great Bobo when out of the corner of my eye I saw a rather large group of brown shirted troopers assembled. And they were all laughing their asses off and pointing at me.

"Gotcha!" My training officer announced. "Call it your state fair initiation."

You know, I really think he saved a clown's life in that moment. I wish I could say the same about Trooper 88 here saving face. Still I must confess I rather enjoyed conspiring to spring the same clown caper on the newest state fair 'virgin' the following summer.

This year's fair was tame in comparison but it wasn't without its memorable moments. There was Big Red, the Big Boar, weighing in at 1203 pounds and Lazer, the Big Bull, hitting the scales at a whopping 3300 pounds. And the butter sculpture of Harry Potter (that's Harry on the right at the top of the page) was really cool--no pun intended.

And there was the food. Can't forget that. Tressa would never forgive me. From beef sundaes to gargantuan turkey legs, deep fried Oreos and Snicker bars, and meatballs on a stick to the traditional cotton candy, caramel apples, and lemonade. Fair fare is worth the extra time on the treadmill once you get home.

So, do any of you have clown encounters to share? Embarrassing moments to confess? Fair stories to impart? I've got a million of 'em. Uh, did I mention I competed in demolition derbies???

That's so another story...!

'Til next time,

~Kathy a/k/a 'Bullet Hole' Bacus~


Colleen Thompson said...

Your post brought back lots of memories of county fairs, where I spent a lot of years as a 4H exhibitor. We looked forward to the crappy food and carnival rip-offs all year.

But thank God there were no clowns. I *hate* clowns, and as for a rude one... I think I would've shot him. :)

Blondie0409 said...

Well I have to say that I myself am NOT a fan of clowns. As a child, I would have nightmares of being chased by bozo the killer clown. Scary? Tell me about it!

Christie Craig said...


LOL! Loved the clown story. I would have shot him way before you even thought about it. I guess that's why I'm not wearing a gun.

Thanks for the laugh.


Meljprincess said...

I am scared of clowns too! The only clown experience I have to talk about is trying to watch Tim Curry as Pennywise in the movie IT. Stephen King's bestseller.

Gemma Halliday said...

Clown stories…no. But, I have a ton of fair stories! I used to work as a temporary tattoo artist at the county fairs all up and down California. Which, granted can’t hold a candle to an Iowa State Fair, but they were loaded with floating goldfish, marginally safe tilt-a-whirls, and toothless carnies galore. And the food! Oh, I’m so with you on that one, Kathy. I used to trade tattoos for deep fried (fill in the blank with anything edible) all the time. Ah, the good ol' days...


Anonymous said...

I'm with everyone else. I think I'd have shot him anyway. Or dunked the sorry son-of-a-gun. *g*

Speaking of fair food, I now have this huge craving for funnel cake.....

Kathy Bacus said...

I have never cared for clowns, Colleen. I remember some particularly annoying ones that seemed to target me at rodeos and parades over the years. I don't even like the polite ones or the ones that make the balloon animals. I'm not alone. I think there is even a I HATE CLOWNS website.

Thank goodness I've never had a clown dream, blondie0409. Unless, of course, I was armed in my dream...Hmm.

Glad you got a laugh out of my clown encounter, Christie. And yeah, they teach us impulse control techniques in the academy. It involves deep breathing and trying to reach out and understand what the individual who is the source of your frustration and anxiety may be feeling and experiencing. Did I mention I received below average in this skill? Sigh.

My kids love the Stephen King IT movie, meljprincess! Pennywise was terrifying!

And I bet you have some stories to tell, Gemma, about your tattoo artist days. Oh, I can't wait to read about your date tomorrow!


Hellie Sinclair said...

A BUTTER Harry Potter? I need to go to more fairs.

I don't remember the last fair I went to, let alone our "state" fair. Oh, wait, I do know...I went when Def Leppard (about 15 years after the height of their popularity) played. I had a blast! I was dancing like mad and singing all the songs...

I do not care for clowns. Why DIDN'T you shoot him?

Estella said...

I really don't care for clowns. The first ones I can remember seeing ran around slugging each other, and i didn't thind small children should be exposed to that kind of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing here, Kathy. I've never been a fan of clowns, either. And the whole butter sculpture thing...well, that just cracks me up on general principle. LOL.


Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. Gemma's date with Attorney Guy. Can't wait to hear how that turned out, either. LOL.


Kathy Bacus said...

If you thought Harry was hysterical, Faye, you should have seen the John Wayne butter sculpture of several years back. Duke immortalized in oleo. It was a beautiful thing. :)

The Iowa State Fair boasts a long tradition of butter sculptures. We've had a butter cow as long as I can remember. Each year a different breed is sculpted. The last several years they've added an additional piece--hence Harry and Big Duke. If you get to the fair early in the first week, you can actually observe the artist through the glass as she works inside the refrigerated showcase.

And I couldn't very well endanger the public by blowing holes into the water tank below the psycho clown (or the clown himself, for that matter) since that was the sort of activity I was paid to prevent. I got the heck out of Dodge. It was safer for all concerned. As I recall, I consoled myself later with funnel cakes and Wonder Bars.


Francesca Hawley said...

Great post about the fair. The clown deserved deep and repeated dunkings at the least though.
The Iowa State Fair is cool, but I miss Good Ole Bill Riley. He was way cool. I went to the fair a couple times as a kid - one of them was with my grandmother and her Over60s club. The only kid with a bunch of Golden Oldies - but we had a blast. I also remember fair food. It was at the Iowa State Fair I was introduced to the frozen chocolate covered banana. Darn it, now I'm hungry! :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm with everyone else, I'd have shot him. I don't have any clown stories. Nothing has ever happened to me at the fair.

RudyRoo! said...


Loved your story about the clown! The one essential element you left out of your report on the great Iowa State Fair was the free fashion show. Fair fashion amazes me every year - just when I think I've seen it all, there's a woman my mother's age in a halter top! I will admit that she had the right idea though, as this year's fair was exceptionally hot and humid!


Kathy Bacus said...

OMG, you never know what you're going to see people dressed in at the fair, do you, Kate? This year was brutal with the heat so I understood the motivation behind the halter tops and short shorts even though I personally would stew in my own juices before I flashed that much flesh to 100,000 fair goers.

Last year I was doing a radio interview very early one morning at the fair and while I was on the air I saw my sister, who had come to meet me for breakfast after the radio spot, get cornered by McGruff, the Crime Dog. All I could think was how hot it had to be in that costume--and how much it probably reeked after a couple hours. You couldn't pay me enough.

I wore cowboy boots and jeans for many years until my feet rebelled. Now I go strictly for comfort.


Unknown said...

School has started and I'm still trying to catch up. Love the clown stories. I remember chasing (now you'd call it stalking) "boys" and getting thrown in the cow tank - always with your WHITE 4-H shirt, how atractive was that? Oh, what memories of the fair!