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Hans Sebald Beham:
Dansend boerenpaar [Dancing Farm Couple] (1537)

" … invulnerable to most of the ailments common to mere fair visitors."

Like every public entity, Fairs operate on an Upstairs/Downstairs model. There are insiders, and then there are visitors. Staff and exhibitors live on the inside while guests remain on the outside, even after paying their admission fee, largely ignorant of the machine supporting their experience. The visitor might see the gatekeeper but will register few of the insiders making their experience possible, for insiders try hard to remain invisible. One might see somebody with Security printed on their jacket but never really witness security in action, escorting an unruly guest to the gate or invisibly monitoring booth traffic. This year, given that The Muse has contracted for exhibit space to advertise her candidacy for Port Commissioner and interact with voters, She and I get to be Fair insiders.

I revel in the permissions granted me.
For instance, I have been awarded the privilege of driving onto the fairgrounds early mornings to "restock" our booth, which is insider code for packing in a bag of ice for our ice chest filled with water bottles. This might seem like tiny potatoes, but I enter with the tradespeople and the turkey leg purveyors. I rub shoulders with bleary-eyed carneys, all out of uniform and not yet performing so early in the morning. The place has a unique bustle before the public invades it, a serenity, a palpable sense of purpose. Even the fellow picking up litter seems on a mission early in the morning. The blazing sun has yet to wilt intentions. The place seems tightly focused.

Later, The Muse and I entered as if we were guests, but using the "Free" tickets given to every exhibitor, not to mention the parking privileges. We were instructed to park in Lot One, but we couldn't locate that lot. I circumnavigated the fairgrounds without finding it, so I pulled into the last lot I found and asked the attendants if it was Lot One, figuring that we had arrived by a process of elimination. The attendants denied that identity, so I explained that I had proven to my own satisfaction that Lot One didn't exist and so this one would at least have to pretend to be it. We were, after all, expected to be staffing a booth inside and were—ahem— insiders. The attendants relented and directed us to park on the Middle School's pitcher's mound they were using for a parking space. Rank does have palpable privileges, after all.

We ran into several disconnects, for we were clearly inexperienced insiders. I quickly became persona non grata in the fair office because I kept showing up asking ignorant questions like where the heck did they hide Lot One? They showed me the location on a map, though when I checked later, no sign identified it as such. The place was stinking with such insider knowledge. I also asked after their wi-fi pastword, which stumped the secretary until Jerri, the chief admin and elder insider, stepped in and pulled a pre-printed piece of paper from her desk drawer.  Insider information is power and must be closely guarded lest interlopers and first-timers try to take over and upset the delicate balance. Some information was never intended for widespread disclosure. Insiders jealously guard their advantages.

It's a really different experience to walk down the midway on a mission while wearing my Amy For Port Commissioner Tee Shirt. I'm a human billboard, accumulating insider knowledge. I know where I'm going, not just unthinkingly stumbling around the grounds. I stop by the Democrat's booth and know the people there. I bump into an old friend out in the square by the pavilion, and we chat nonchalantly there like insiders. I'd never found myself in that position before and loved it. I was mission-driven, up to something, and increasingly in the know. I go back for a second shift and stay up way past my bedtime, reveling in it. I even tried a Dippy Dog and enjoyed it without dripping mustard all down my front, but then I'm now a budding insider, invulnerable to most of the ailments common to mere fair visitors.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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