Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Things are Different in Wisconsin

This past weekend I spent the weekend in the Milwaukee area, first at Irish Fest and then at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Irish Fest, I have been to several times. It's held at this HUGE waterfront park that has something like eleven stages from one end to the other, a large number of permanent souvenir and tchotke stands, and beer.

LOTS of beer.

Beer sponsors three of the largest stages, with big signs and bigger bars. I suppose it's no more than one would expect at a festival grounds, where there is one Fest after the other... oh, and the fourth huge stage? Sponsored by Harley Davidson. Motorcycles suspended from the ceiling, that sort of thing. Harleys and beer.

And music, of course. Lots and lots of music. I saw several good bands - Whiskey of the Damned, Reilly, Red Hot Chili Pipers and even Tommy Sands. All in all, a great day.

Stayed overnight in a HECK of a deal via Hotwire. Man, what a nice room and a nice hotel and free breakfast and - OK, so it was seven miles away. You can't have everything. :)

Next day I went to the Wisconsin State Fair.

This... was different.

I've been to the California (not so good) and New York (great!) State Fairs several times. I have been to the Erie County fair a few times, too, and several others. I htought I had pretty much seen anything in fairs.

Not. Close.

The Wisconsin Fair has a TON of restaurant/pubs, pretty much all at one end of the fair, serving virtually anything you can think of for fair food and plenty of stuff you probably never considered. Some of these operations are huge - Cousins Subs has an entire section, as do Budweiser and Miller Lite and Leinenkugel (great, more beer).

I mean, HUGE sections. Seating perhaps a thousand or more? At pretty nice wooden bars and tables?

Oh, yeah, besides the beer - which was being offered EVERYWHERE (hey, look at this stand - Popcorn, Corn Dogs, beer!) ...

An aside, here - I LIKE beer. Really. And they had some of my favorites - Red Hook, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - that you really don't find too often in the Chicago area. nothing like a cold frosty beer on a really hot day at the ballpark.

But good grief - there were bars that were blocks long - several of them! Beer signs everywhere. It was just a bit much.

OK, so we've established that Wisconsinites really like their beer. What's the second thing?


Each of these bars/restaurants seemed to have its own band playing songs ranging from a smaller joint's 70s disco songs to the huge Budweiser place's rock-ola. I mean, you couldn't sit down or walk around without hearing a band. I counted thirteen bands before I just gave up and said the hell with it.

Music and beer. There are a lot of worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, let me tell you.

Oh, they had the usual stuff as well... pig races and sham-wow demos and roast corn (yumm, I had three ears during the course of the day!). They had animals galore (okay, I admit it, I am one of those guys who goes and looks at the ducks and chickens and bunnies and cows and horses and goats and... enjoys it). They had mini-donuts and camel rides and these barrel-shaped rootbeer stands.

And they had rides, of course. I didn't go on anything, but I wandered around to see what was new. They had things there that I had never seen and would never go up in if I was paid to. Besides the usual Kamikaze and Tornado and all, they had a ride which you started standing up, then rotate around. Pretty standard. But then the arm to which this wheel is attached starts to move around in a circle! Wild! THEN the ARM ITSELF rotates and turns the whole contraption UPSIDE DOWN. Picture it - you're standing with your feet pointing toward the sky, rotating around sideways, while the whole contraption moves around in a circle and the arm moves in its own rotation! In-freaking-credible.

Anyway, the state fair has been in the same grounds since something like 1870 or so, but a few of the buildings have been rebuilt since then. It's nice, a big comfortable fair with milk for 25c a glass, and I'm glad I went.

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