A Fair of the Heart

6 minutes
Photo by Nathan Gunter

Look, I don’t make a lot of promises to Jesus. I figure Jesus is gonna do what Jesus is gonna do, and I’m not trying to tell the Almighty His business. But I did make a promise to Jesus when I was sixteen years old, and I’ve kept it: I promised Jesus that if He’d let me off this Oklahoma State Fair ride alive, I’d never get on another one again. Adrenaline is not my drug of choice, and creaky contraptions that whip my body around faster than it was meant to be whipped around—those are not my idea of a good time. More power to you if you’re into them, but I’ll keep my feet firmly planted here on the ground.

But if you think these firmly planted feet aren’t walking into the Oklahoma State Fair when it opens this week, you’d be quite wrong. Okay, so I’m not one for the rides, but I’m quite the fan of the Fair, and over my forty-plus years of life, I’ve developed something of a routine around it. Much of my State Fair liturgy is centered around food, because where else but a state fair can you try something like fried soda?

Yes, the great American tradition of dipping random objects—preferably edible ones, but let’s talk—into batter and oil is alive and well at the Oklahoma State Fair, and I for one support it. That’s why one of the first stops I make upon entering the fair is at the Wisconsin Fried Cheese booth for a little paper boat full of the cheesiest, creamiest, fried-iest deliciousness to ever come from The Badger State:

Now, full to bursting, we set off walking. Because while I love the food at the State Fair—and don’t worry, we’re not done—the real joy, for me, is having a look through all the amazing things Oklahomans are up to. Wisconsin Fried Cheese is near the livestock barns, and I always enjoy a stroll through the pens where the FFA kids are caring for their sheep, cows, goats, and horses. Then, I meander over to the Creative Arts building, because it’s my favorite place at the Fair. There are ribbons of all colors adorning homemade jams and jellies; artwork; antiques; and even tablescapes:

I’m always delighted to see Oklahomans showing off their creativity and skill, and the Creative Arts building has more of it per capita than anywhere else this time of year. But by this time, I’ve walked off the fried cheese and am once again ready to stalk my prey; in this case, it’s a roast beef sundae, which sounds weird but is basically just a shepherd’s pie. A delicious one:

Now it’s time for some sweetness, so I locate the root beer stand and score one of those small jugs of nectar, which I take over to the nearest place selling deep-fried sweets. Some love a Twinkie; some love Oreos. Me? I’m a fried Snickers man:

My hands all greasy and covered in hot fudge, I wander through the Bennett Event Center to see the new cars and through all the buildings until I locate the place I fondly call Grandma Candy. There’s a spot at the fair where you can buy vintage candies by weight, and every year, I load up on salt water taffy, Mary Janes, candy cigarettes, Goetze's creams, squirrel nut zippers, Bit-O-Honey, and those little strawberry candies—you know the ones I’m talking about. Your grandma always had them. Now, muching away at my bag of sweets, I finish off the night with a stroll around the grounds, a visit to the freak show, and some wonderful people watching:

Now, the night complete, I go home to sleep off that enormous amount of food, with prize-winning jellies, Toyotas, unruly teenagers, and deep-fried objects dancing in my head.

Get There
Oklahoma State Fair Park, 3001 General Pershing Boulevard in Oklahoma City or Visit the Oklahoma State Fair website
Written By
Nathan Gunter

A sixth-generation Oklahoman, Weatherford native, and Westmoore High School graduate, Nathan Gunter is the magazine's editor-in-chief. When he's not editor-in-chiefing, Nate enjoys live music, running, working out, gaming, cooking, and random road trips with no particular destination in mind. He holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma. He learned how to perform poetry from Maya Angelou; how to appreciate Italian art from Terisio Pignatti; comedy writing from Doug Marlette; how to make coconut cream pie from his great-grandma; and how not to approach farm dogs from trial and error. A seminary dropout, he lives just off Route 66 in Oklahoma City.

Nathan Gunter
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