Saturday was typical in ways I’d forgotten. I can get a nice crowd on weekday, but weekend Fair crowds are different. The Saturday people are less inclined to gather and pause and tarry a while; there’s things to do. They have plans and objectives. On any day there will be a guy with a beer in hand at 10:30 AM, but there are more on weekends. Do they want to sit and listen to someone talk about Fair lore? They do not.
But it was fun nonetheless. Note: by “fun” I mean “proceeded by a surly mood directly related to getting up on Saturday morning with the overriding objective of finding parking in a distant lot so I can get on a bus.”
The show was at 11:30, so I built . . . two hours into the travel time. You have to. You have to get to the lot before it’s full.
As always - as always, I made it, but that’s because I build in extra time. So what to do on a cool, occasionally cold, Saturday morning? Hit the Midway!
The worst time to go there!
A few people playing games; the rides mostly still from lack of traffic.
There’s one boon to aesthete: it had rained earlier, and that meant the inevitable cliche of mirrored images:
I swear they build imperfections into the asphalt just for this purpose.
The Midway was missing the Ferris wheel, and that seemed just wrong. It’s over by the Kidway now. It should be on the Midway, in the center, the crown, the slow regal monarch. The ride that’s had Tom Selleck’s picture for a very long time seems to have been repainted or replaced. The haunted house looks a bit different, too. STEEL YOURSELF FOR THE HORROR
All in all, a downbeat time, but I like it. There’s something about being at the Fair when it’s not peak, when it’s not everyone else’s, when it’s overrun by packs of youts with no sense of history. Why, you just want to drag them by the ear over to the side of a building and ask them what this means, and why it matters.
Show some respect! This low pavilion, this stretch of tired concrete, pitted and spotted, still bears the style of its time, of the day when the future would shake off all historicity and march boldly into a newly envisioned world of technocrats in white smocks in skyscrapers, designing plans for the toiling masses to ensure the well-being of all! Granted, it wouldn’t have worked, would have turned into tyranny in a single generation, and would’ve scoured the works of man from the earth in favor of the new ideal, and that’s why we romanticize the impulse behind the style. It didn’t happen! Kinda sounded cool in a way, though.
It was something of an awakening to realize that the Emerald City is the sister metropolis of the future of Things to Come, that the design of that magical, fascinating place - so unlike anything we had conceived, when we were young - would have been familiar to audiences at the time. What we saw as divorced from any context would have had meaning to them.
Some other observations:
When I was done with the Midway I wandered over to the place where I get my pre-show coffee for $2. It’s good! Went to the stage and sat down and had a quiet, happy cup while watching the throngs pass. There weren’t many people, and I’d somehow have to gin up enthusiasm with this sparse crowd in a few minutes.
Ah well. This is my job, my craft, my curse, my groundhog day! This is my spot at the Fair, more than any other. I’d like a plaque some day, thank you.
Then I noted with horror that they were handing out this year’s flavor. Wait. A. Minute. The distribution was supposed to happen at 3 PM, and my draw was handing out this year’s flavor at a Special Time. I went to the counter and asked if there was not a moratorium in effect?
No, the fellow said, this was the tail end of the morning distribution. I checked my watch - what was I thinking? It was only 11 AM. I wouldn’t be on for a half an hour. Oh. Well. Let’s kill another half hour, then.
This I did, with ease. Just take a seat somewhere and behold the jumbled parade. Talk to people who saw my Red Owl shirt and want to say something about it. Listen to a band. Note the sudden parting of the clouds and the hot stab of the sun, note how the clouds close and the chill rolls back in. The day has no idea what it wants to be.
Then it’s 11:30. Wander back, click the button on the mic, and do another show.
The bus goes the same route back, the same wormhole that connects the Fairgrounds to the U of M. It passes through an abandoned industrial corridor that’s being repurposed, slowly, for business and residential. It has ancient elevators that stand like the pyramids, without the flocks of grifters and scam artists hanging around the base asking if you want your picture taken sitting on a camel. I mean, not usually.
It’s hard to describe, but you don’t leave the Fair until you leave the lot, distant though it may be. On the ride back, everyone’s abuzz with sugar and fun; the driver has the same cheer she had on the way there. The lot is full of cars, and you know everyone who drove there is still at the Fair. The signs for the lots have Fair branding. You pull out, pass the rows of people waiting to take the bus. It’s only a few blocks later, driving through Dinkytown, that it all fades -
- but that’s because it’s replaced by That Difficult Dinkytown Feeling. Another day, perhaps.
Hur-ray, hur-ray, hur-ray: the Feature of Features!
A hundred thousand dollars worth of entertainment!
Stupendous! No one uses that word anymore. So what did they have?
“Ten London Steppers” sounds like it’s setting up an interminable Christmas song.
The Flying Cordonas, eh. Says the Circopedia:
The Codonas (and Alfredo Codona in particular) were conceivably, in terms of international fame, the greatest circus stars of the first half of the twentieth century. They owe their distinctive place in circus history to the exceptional talent of Alfredo Codona, but also to the dramatic ending of his career, and subsequently, the tragic conclusion of his life.
But it wasn’t from a fall. His wife died in 1930, and then he married his trapeze partner in 1932. She sued for divorce in 1937.
Alfredo Codona met Vera Bruce in the office of her attorney, James E. Pawson, in Long Beach to finalize details of the settlement. It was an amicable meeting. At some point, Alfredo told the lawyer that he wanted to be alone with his ex-wife. After Pawson had left the room, Codona draw a gun and shot Vera five times before turning the gun onto himself. Alfredo Codona died instantly; Vera died at Seaside Hospital in Long Beach the following day.
Nothing about Lucile in the circopedia, or the Mounter, or the various foot-juggler Belfords.
Still doesn’t seem to be adding up to a 100K.
Ah, we’ve something on Red.
John Dixon "Red" Sublett (born November 1894; died April 14, 1950, Dallas, Texas)
In World War I, Red Sublett served in the 90th Division Medical Corps. After the war, Red Sublett continued his career as an international rodeo performer, but his brother, Joseph Herman Sublett, remained in France and got married there. (Today, Joseph Herman Sublett's descendants live in the Bordeaux region, where they own the Château de Roques hotel and wine vineyard.)
It has a website! Very French.
Mary Emma Harrison was born April 11, 1906, in Cherokee County, Texas. Around the age of 15, she married Red Sublett, a successful rodeo clown, and they travelled throughout the United States and Europe. Though they had an easy celebrity lifestyle, Red's drinking and short temper led to a divorce.
All the circus cliches seem to be present and accounted for.
Four days of Harness and Running Horse Racing, three days of Record-Breaking Auto Racing - it sounds as if this thing just ran all day.
Don’t forget, there’s also a million dollars worth of livestock!
That was the Fair a hundred years ago.
A hundred years. Doesn't seem as if it should be that distant.
That will do. Time for more takes of Johnny the Cigarettte Imp, and his amazing feats of bravery!