On the first of the month, the kids and I drove up to the State Fair, just north of Richmond. I woke them up at the buttcrack of dawn, because I had four early-morning mystery shops to do along the way. (Actually five, but we didn't make it to that last one in time.) En route to Doswell, we drove through Gloucester, Tappahannock, and Richmond. Those first two towns looked liked they'd be really cool to go exploring on another visit, so we plan to do just that.
After those four breakfast shops, I had lots of coffee, sandwiches and hash browns that none of us wanted to eat, so I put on my thinking cap to figure out where we could deliver them. Aha! What about the local fire or police department? Seemed like a good plan, so I did a quick search on my trusty iPhone for the nearest one, and a fire dept was nearby.
A half-hour and four false starts later, we finally arrived at the fire house. I had three little ones in PJs and me, all carrying a bag of food. When they opened the door, six fire fighters (including a female captain, woohoo!) all greeted us with smiles and curious looks. I explained why we were there and how I came upon all this unwanted food, and they were happy to take it off or hands. I did have to apologize for it not being as hot as it might have been, since I got lost so many times on the way there, but they didn't seem to care.
The chief who was visiting asked if we had time to take a tour of the trucks, and even though the Fair was now open, I said sure. Why pass up a chance to have a personal tour, even if they've all been before? One can always learn something new.
Unfortunately, I'd left my camera in the car, so I have no proof of this visit, but the kids had a blast trying on gear, talking into the trucks' headsets, and exploring all the equipment. The chief even gave them each a plastic fireman's hat to take home. When they were finished, we went back inside to say our good-bye's, and they thanked us for bringing them breakfast. All-in-all, it was a pretty cool impromptu visit.
We got to the Fair early enough that traffic and parking weren't so bad. We got right in, bought our tickets, and headed up to the area where all the animals were. After all, this was a school day, and technically I wanted to count this as a field trip, so it had to be at least partly edumacational. The first thing we ran into - after I spent a small fortune on a slice of cheese pizza for each of us, and Sophia promptly dumped her entire piece upside-down on the ground, to my extreme annoyance, that is - was the farm equipment. Jack, of course, was thoroughly delighted. He really wanted to climb up and see each machine, but that was definitely not allowed. The best we could do was get up close and take a few pictures.
This thing was massive! Jack was in awe. One nearby vendor's booth had models of many of the farm machines for toys, and Jack was enraptured. I'm definitely getting him one of them for Christmas, either a combine or a tractor. He hasn't decided which he wants for sure, so I guess I'll just pick one myself and start a collection for him.
After the tractors an' sech, we went into the first big tent, which was full of all kinds of farm animals on exhibit. We found some adorable bunnies, which immediately set the kids talking about missing Bounce and getting another pet rabbit. I'd love to, but we just re-homed our dog because she was one too many mouths to feed, so getting a bunny wouldn't quite make sense right now!
Besides, if I do get another pet wabbit, it's going to be one I can harvest for the fur! And then I'd have to learn to spin it...
Sophia made me nervous the whole time, because she just couldn't seem to hear me (and various other bystanders) saying, "Keep your fingers out of the cage!!" Thankfully, she didn't lose a single one. That time.
You can't really tell from the picture, but this bull was ENORMOUS. I couldn't stop looking at him.
These nursing piglets were sooooo cute!!! ♥
Thankfully, there was plenty of hand sanitizer all over the place in there. We used a LOT of it.
The kiddos were really excited when we went over by the alpacas and the owner had food for them to share. Sophia and Chloë kept laughing about the tickling sensation when they ate!
They're just so funny-looking! I really need to learn how to spin; alpaca fiber is among my favorites.
The chicks were also a big draw for my spawn. On the other side, there was an incubator with some still in the shells, some just emerging, and some fresh out of the shell. Those newly-hatched birds were flopped over, slimy, and unable to walk yet. The kids were so upset, thinking they were all dead! So I had to explain to them about that, and now they know. See? I told you a trip to the fair was going to be educational!
Big ol' pig boobs. I thought I had a hard time finding a bra that fits!
We don't have any floor fans, so the kids have never really had that classic experience of talking into a high-speed fan. When we walked by this one, I couldn't resist the opportunity to yell into it before inviting the kids to do the same. It was hard to pull them away, but we had so much else to see!
The next tent housed nothing but rabbits. They were all entered for ribbons and whatever prizes, so there was specimen after perfect specimen. This guy was a blue ribbon winner. I don't know what happened to the other pictures, because I really wanted to show you a Lionhead rabbit, and I can't find them. Wait, there's always Google Images:
So silly looking!! I'd love one of this kind too, please.
After the bunnies, we visited the Pigeons and Doves tent, and Sophia, our resident bird-lover, was in seventh heaven. She would have stayed in there all day. I forget what this kind of pigeon was called, but they were really pretty. Sophia spent the rest of the entire weekend cooing like a dove. It was cute - for the first 19 hours...
We looked at a few more animal tents before heading back to the center of the Fair for one of those ice cream cones that is squared and covered in chocolate & nuts. Remember those? I used to love those when I was a kid. They were about $4 each, so I bought only one for them to share, and they were quite annoyed with me for that. When I told them it was either that or rides, though, the choice was clear. On the way to the rides, we found these posing boards, and they had a bit of fun there. My favorites were the Sesame Street and King Kong ones!
I hadn't planned on taking the kids on any rides until after 9, when Daddy had joined us after work and when ticket prices went down to 60 for $20. On our way out of the animal exhibits, however, a nice older couple stopped me and asked if we were going to go on the rides. I told them we were, and they handed me $50 worth of tickets!! They said they weren't going to use them and thought we looked like a nice family, so take them and have fun. I about kissed their feet. Thank you, nice older couple!
After we used up all the tickets they gave us, Chloë was absolutely begging for a funnel cake. I tried to talk her into fried dough instead, but she stood her ground. They wanted cherries on top, so this is what we got. Waaaay too many freakin' cherries, and none of us wanted to eat them. In the end, the four of us were only able to eat about half of this, and it killed me to throw the rest away when I knew Rob would have tore it up.
Of course, I shouldn't have eaten a single bite of it, and Oscar (my pouch) proved it by making me run to the (very far away) bathroom to puke it up. Ugh. I still do it at least once a day, but it never fails to exhaust me. Since I hadn't slept the night before, I immediately needed a nap. I'd gotten the kids up so early, and they watched movies instead of napping in the car, and their feet were killing them... so not one of them complained when I said I needed to go back to the van for a nap.
And so we went. I turned on a movie for the kids and immediately fell asleep myself. I don't know if any of them slept at all, but I think they did for a little while. The next thing I knew, a policeman and some other guy were rapping on my window to wake me up. It took me a minute to come to my senses enough to be able to roll down the window! They were just checking to make sure everything was okay, since the kids were awake and moving about the cabin by that point, and I was passed out in the front seat. I explained and thanked them for checking on us, and they left.
By that point, the kids were restless, hungry, and tired of waiting for Daddy. I'd expected him around 1700, but it was 1900 by then. He didn't end up arriving until 2100, because of traffic, so that sucked. I should've just made him stay home!
To kill time before Daddy arrived and the ticket prices went down, I took the kids through the Expo halls. They didn't really like the arts and crafts one, because I wouldn't let them touch anything. I was annoyed to find at least three or four crocheted and knit pieces entered for prizes, made from famous patterns I recognized. Really? Aren't they supposed to be your OWN creations? Or am I misunderstanding things? Because if you can use famous, established patterns, then I'm totally entering next year.
Anyway. They love fish tanks and are always begging me to get one for them. I would, but where on earth would we put it? Tinkerbell and Star would love one too, I'm sure.
After the more educational hall, we went to the last one, which was all the cool stuff different vendors had for sale. The roasted nuts were right in front of the entrance. Tricky, tricky. I made a beeline for them, and they gave each of us a yummy sample. Sold! I bought us a small bag, and the kids pretty much inhaled them before I could blink twice. Hungry, much? Right next door was the Virginia Lottery booth. We couldn't do much with the kids there, until we came across Lady Luck here, ready to pose with the children. Jack wanted no part of that, and the girls were confused when they couldn't keep the magic wands. Kinda lame. Oh, well.
Jack was thrilled about this race car, but he doesn't look it here because he was absolutely starving. And I think maybe he was mad that he wasn't allowed to get in it, too.
In the same hall, we came upon this guy selling these cool hair wraps, made by hand out of polymer clay. The girls were all over those, so the guy convinced me to let him wrap the girls' hair with them. We didn't buy them, but I got his card and am going to get them some for Christmas from their website, here. The had a whole bunch of different charms for the ends of the wraps at the Fair, but I don't see any online, so I emailed them about it.
Sophia was up next. Isn't this exactly the kind of guy you picture doing little girls' hair?!
I thought it was sufficiently cute that I whispered in the guy's ear to give me a card so I could order these for Christmas. I don't know why I bothered to whisper, though, since I've since had the girls pick out which colors they want, off the site!
This guy's whole exhibit was these balls of goo that went SPLAT! when you threw them down or at the wall. My kids loved it, but there was no way I was plunking down even a dollar on that stuff. Makes me wonder if he even made enough money to pay for his booth. (Sophia loved it, though. I had to grab her arm mid-splat after the 15th time, to get her to move along.)
Finally, we left the exhibits and went outside to use the bathrooms. I think it was after nine by then, so I bought a sheet of 60 tickets for the rides. The kids were chilling in this Ferris Wheel seat, set up just for this purpose, when Rob called and said he'd arrived. At last!
He couldn't find my van in the throng of cars, so the poor guy had to carry his motorcycle gear all over the fair with him. Less than fun.
The kids were excited that Daddy had come for more fun on the rides. We spent the next couple of hours all over the Midway (well, the "Kidway,") since they're not big enough yet for the "real" rides). Sophia, ever the bravest, coaxed us onto the high-flying, fast-soaring ones that she was tall enough to on, while Chloë and Jack continued to play it safe. We made ourselves sick on cheesy fries (YUM, my favorite fair food) and other stuff I can't remember, and generally had a really great time.
When the Midway finally closed, we were among the last people there. We yanked Chloë out of the bouncy house she was in, and were headed out, when she reminded me I promised they could play ONE game. Oh, yeah. You remembered that, huh, kid?
Of course I picked the balloon darts, because they were a guaranteed-win game. I thought I could do the 3-for-$5 and have each of them throw one dart, but then we would only have been able to get one prize. Shoot. So I had to pay two bucks per dart, which is just outrageous IMO. The fair these days... whew. Those guys are making BANK.
They all popped a balloon, which is great, but check out this lady's face when Jack threw his dart. Hee! That makes me laugh every time I look at it.
And so, we close the place down. During the day, I had made an unplanned stop to the fire department, thrown up, gone completely broke, been questioned by the police, and gained about three blisters... and it was fantastic. I LOVE THE FAIR!!!!
P.S. The rest of the story wasn't so great: I was nearly falling asleep driving, so I pulled into the first rest stop I could find for a short "nap." Only, I ended up sleeping the whole night through, as did the kids, never realizing I'd forgotten to turn off the lights! We were broke, starving, and I was still so exhausted that it didn't occur to me that there were other options besides having Rob drive back up to jump the battery with his motorcycle. D'oh!