Picks and pans at this year's Mid-State Fair

Joe Tarica
Joe Tarica

Summer’s not complete without a trip to the Mid-State Fair, and if you haven’t made your pilgrimage this year, Sunday is your last chance.

If none of the previous grandstand concerts tickled your musical fancy, perhaps watching jacked-up monster trucks crush cars and barrel around in the dirt might appeal? If not, that’s no excuse for passing up a visit, because there’s still plenty to see, do, buy and eat.

With that in mind, here are my favorites — and not-so-favorites — from the 2014 version of the fair:

Kids and their animals

This is the backbone of the fair and always a must-see. If you want a dose of vintage Americana, forget the flag-waving country singers and wander over to the pens at the north end. Nothing says born-in-the-USA like a ranch kid in a cowboy hat with his 1,300-pound steer. When the budding capitalist sells that animal to fund his college education, even more so.

The younger 4-H kids with their chickens, rabbits, goats and lambs are the highlight here.

The music

I’ve been to a few concerts at the Main Grandstand in times past, but this year’s lineup didn’t do it for me. In fact, as a general rule, I’m not too keen on the venue with its sea of metal folding chairs and distant bleachers.

Sitting between the dude who's sparking up a doobie and the chick who’s providing an encore appearance of her six Jack Daniels drinks doesn’t make for the most enjoyable music experience.

Early on the day we were there this year, we got to listen to those Beatles wannabes do their sound check. Is there any band whose music has been more overplayed in the last half-century? And now we have all these tribute groups running around doing it live. At least this show was free, which may better explain its popularity.

The vendors

Who goes to the fair to buy a safe? I have no idea, but apparently they do good business, hawking effective storage solutions for your extensive rare gem and gun collection.

At one booth in the vendor buildings, we were quite amazed by these little pellets that soak and enlarge into colorful water-filled orbs. You can place them in the bottom of fish bowls, around bamboo plants or just by themselves in a decorative vase. They’re also a kick to play with.

But we were most amused by the stand selling classy-looking signs featuring humorous or inspirational sayings. You can even get them to customize something while you’re out gobbling corn dogs and trying to chuck basketballs through inordinately small hoops for prizes.

It was here that Mr. Big Sixth-Grader spent $5 on a sign that read: “If you’re going to act like turd, go lay in the yard.”

It fits him, both because one of his jobs is picking up dog poop and he periodically behaves in just this described manner.

The crafts

The kids entered all kinds of stuff, from cookies and bread to a wood-burned frame and ceramic mask that could sell for real money, so we had to wander around finding everything to see how they fared.

Part of me likes how anyone can enter just about anything and have it judged for a little ribbon sticker, but I’m getting a bit fed up with the extreme low end of the scale. If you bought some kind of kit at Michael's and assembled it following step-by-step instructions, that’s not a bona fide craft worthy of a judge’s time.

If your 4-year-old literally scribbled a bunch of nonsense and submitted it as art, please wait a year or two until he’s graduated to stick figures before entering again.

And if your amateur photo was so amateurly envisioned, composed, lit, focused and printed that it’s barely acceptable for the family album much less public display, think again.

Oh, and no more photos of Morro Rock. We get it. It’s a big rock in the ocean. We’ve all seen it. I’m sorry to be harsh, but someone has to.

On the other hand, the craft areas also offer plenty of impressive entries. Gorgeous handmade quilts, homegrown produce, custom-made clothes, woodcrafts, fancy cakes, and much more. I especially like how the organizers grouped a bunch of different types of entries by color scheme. Snazzy.

But all of this is just a tiny taste. There’s still time to see a kid ride a sheep, applaud some aspiring young dancers, catch an art demonstration or just people-watch the night away. But hurry, because come Monday morning, it all packs up until next year.