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Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 12:58 am

Nothing fair about it

Your obnoxious grandma is back to pinch your cheeks and ruffle your hair

It has come to my attention that certain citizens of Springfield don’t like the Illinois State Fair. Ooh! Ouch! What sacrilege! Such blasphemy! Who could ever show any disrespect for the grand and venerable institution of “the fair”?

I’ve learned that families plan vacations around fair time just to avoid the blessed mess. On the other hand, I hear tell of homeowners who pay for vacations by selling parking space on their lawns. I’m sure the city spends a ton on extra public services, all the while making a bundle on sales-tax collections. I’m beginning to understand that it’s similar to tolerating an obnoxious grandma who pinches your cheeks and ruffles your locks so you can get at that nice birthday present she’s carrying under her arm.

Even though I can and usually do lament the live-music offerings at the fair, I’m not going to bother this year because it follows the same “obnoxious grandma” principle of putting up with something to get something else. For every cheesy karaoke clown and goofball entertainer, somewhere there is an equal and opposite performance. There must be. And besides, who am I to decide what others might enjoy? After a few fair visits, everyone develops a favorite destination for entertainment anyway.

Are you an Ethnic Village watcher, getting your annual fill of Greek, Celtic, Cajun, African, and various other cultures through music, dance, food, and beer? Perhaps you prefer the confinement of the major-label beer tents and the familiarity of local bar bands as they live out those rock & roll fantasies on a larger-than-usual stage. Some only come out at night and partake in the really big shows at the grandstand, sweltering on the track to experience a big-name act at a big-ticket price. Then there’s the Key West area, a remnant of a former fair director’s misguided infatuation with Jimmy Buffett, with some interesting music lined up. For me, the Best-Kept Secret Award always goes to the Twilight Ballroom. It’s cool, the beer is decent, the crowd isn’t too rambunctious, the live music covers dance/swing big bands and real jazz combos, and the volume is tolerable.

But without a doubt the great and wondrous fair has too much to offer in the way of entertainment to list here, so maybe you should take the advice of the government institution advertising the fair and “Experience It!”

And if you don’t like it, go on vacation.

For complete information about the 2006 Illinois State Fair, go to www.agr.state.il.us/isf/

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