Monday, September 03, 2007

The Oregon State Fair--In All Its Glory

Okay, the title is enormously deceiving, since to represent the fair in all its glory would require a hundred photographs and a thousand descriptions, and I have no desire to strain your patience by wading through all of Ked's and my State Fair memories in laborious detail. I'll just skim the surface, and assure you that there was much, much more to see and experience than will be logged here. You really should experience it for yourself some year. It'll be worth the trip to Oregon, wherever you call home, and while you're here, maybe we can go for a hike or two!!

The reason we head back to the fair every year is that it never gets boring. Sometimes for us the focus is on photography exhibits and stage performances. Other years see us drawn to the show jumping and farm machinery, or maybe the demolition derby (which, as we went with friends who had kids, was last year's highlight.) If your penchant is for wine tasting and household gadgetry, the Oregon State Fair has you covered. If you're all about quilting, crocheting, or growing giant Anaheim peppers, you'll find plenty to keep you entertained. This year, even scuba divers and beach volleyball players could find their niche, since a new feature at the fair was a place for folks to try some popular Oregon activities. There was a tank for scuba wannabes to take a dip, a sand pit for volleyball, a rock wall for climbers, and even a "rink" set up for aspiring curlers to try their hand at "throwing" one of those forty pound stones that had us all so fascinated during the last winter Olympics. (They set the stones on wheels to approximate the ice effect.)

There's way too much to do and see to take it all in at once, so every time we go we have to pick and choose. This time around had us hanging out with the animals, and exploring the gardens and handcrafts. We learned a lot this year, talking to farmers and bee keepers and various and sundry other possessors of knowledge. For example, did you know that those notches in a pig's ears tell it's lineage and what number piglet it was in its litter? That's how they keep track of who's who for breeding purposes. Now, isn't that interesting? But wait, there's more. According to the friendly local farmers who gave us some pig lessons, when you're choosing a porker, you look for one that's long in the body, for lots of pork loin chops and yummy bacon. You want a pig with a nice round rump, because that's where the hams are stored, and you don't want to feed a pig rotten food, because "garbage in, garbage out." Our professors of farmology told us that inside a pig it's very much like it is inside a human, same heart, digestive system, and so on. (This explains why the scientific types are working on genetically engineering pigs for organ donation to humans.) The same things that will make us sick will make them sick, and rotten food will make for mushy, rotten meat. Eeeewww.

We didn't just stick to the farmyard. When we headed indoors there were lots of learning opportunities. We spent a really long time talking with a beekeeper who was an encyclopedia of fascinating bee knowledge. We talked a fair bit about Colony Collapse Disorder, and the social order of a hive. What really rocked my world, though, was when we got to talking about bee reproduction. Did you know that bee eggs that are not fertilized still become bees? Creating drones is a one woman show. Let me explain: The queen lays lots of eggs. Some of these are fertilized. These go on to become females, and are the worker bees of the colony. They gather all the nectar and make all the honey, and they live to be, say, six months old before they die. The unfertilized eggs go on to become the drones. These are the males. They don't do much of anything, except sit around and eat, and wait for their turn to mate with the Queen. (No smart remarks, now. I'm not making this up; I'm just passing along information from a higher source. If you want to make connections between these drones and males in general, I'm afraid you're on your own.) Drones have it cushy for a while, but they are short-lived little lay-abouts. Once they've had their "audience" with the queen they die. Their reproductive organs pull out, just like with a bee's stinger, and they are left bereft of all that's important to them, including their very lives. Most of them only live a few short weeks.

One of the most interesting little nuggets of bee lore we learned was that if the colony doesn't think the queen is doing enough to keep the colony going, they can boot her out and "grow" a new queen. Any female egg that's caught in the early stages of development can be turned into a queen candidate. The other bees feed her "royal jelly"--a kind of honey that has special nutrients--and that egg will develop into a different kind of critter, with totally different behavior and thought patterns. While the common bees all have a "the more the merrier" approach to life in the hive, if several of these queen candidates are grown at once, the one who hatches first will go around playing a deadly version of the game Marco Polo. The new queen will call out to the other queens, and the others will call back, trying to locate the competition. The one that's mobile will go catch the others while they're still in their sacks and see to it that they never emerge. This queen business ain't for the faint of heart. Of course, the survivor better start laying those eggs right quick, because if her loyal subjects don't think she's a producer, then, "Off with her head!" Amazing, huh? What do you think of this whole fair outing now? Isn't that news you can use? Aren't you just dying to go to the yourself fair next year so that you can find out new and exciting facts about the world around us? Come on, we'll plan a trip together. It'll be fun.

Well I'm sure you'd love it if I went on all day about bees and pigs and curling, but let's move on to the pictures now, okay? By the way, Blogger may be having spacing issues again, but this time around it'll let you click on each photo for a bigger image if you want to see more details. Weirdly, I reduced all of the image files in size before uploading them to the blog, but some of the photos are back up to being huge files, so the images are too big to fit the whole thing on the screen when they are opened individually. (I have no idea why sometimes Blogger allows the photos to be enlarged, and other times it doesn't, nor why some of these photos went huge on me. However, I don't want to make the program mad by questioning its methods, so I'll just be happy that it's in semi-cooperative mode, and leave it at that.)

We know that Sioux Lady has a special place in her heart for the Geico Gecko, so we took the opportunity to pester him for a photo.

Talk about a face that only a mother could love!! There were several kinds of guinea fowl, some "pearl," some "lavender." I think this one should be called "acid washed."

The farmer shaving this cow's udder said they shave them to show off their "positive attributes." For example, he said that the veins on her stomach made her look "feminine." Okaaay....

This horse cracked us up. He kept sticking his tongue out and slurping. We finally figured out that there was a fan just on the other side of the stall wall, and he was waving his tongue in the breeze to cool off. The picture can't do it justice.

Ked made a friend.

So did I, but mine required a little coaxing.

Once we broke the ice, though, we got along fine.

When we left the livestock pavilions, we headed over to where things smelled a little sweeter.

In the Artisans Village, various creations came into being before our eyes. There were jewelry makers and glass blowers, spinners and weavers. These two men are showing what you can do if you have a hunk of wood, a chain saw and a blowtorch.

Every year there are lovely garden displays.

Inside the Jackman-Long building are a plethora of handcrafts. Every needlecraft imaginable is on display, from embroidery to one-of-a-kind designer fashions. I liked the design of this one enough that I may have to copy it for my own wardrobe.

Here's what got Ked really excited, though!! His eyes lit up with all kinds of visions of sugarplums...and pears...and salsa...and...

This lovely floral piece was the best thing going at the cake decorating display. It's beautiful all on its own, but when you stop to realize that every leaf, bud and flower is made from sugar, it's truly amazing. I'm sure you can't see the detail well enough here on the blog, but those roses are just incredible. Every petal is wafer thin. I could have sworn they were real. (This is one of those times when clicking on the picture to enlarge it might be worth your time.)

We ended our day as the sun said goodnight and the fair was just starting its nighttime glow. We never actually ride the rides, but they sure are pretty when they're all lit up.

Well, there you have it--our annual trek complete, we came home for some leftover lasagna and a good night's sleep, satisfied with the things we'd seen and the knowledge we gained. Fair people are so friendly and so willing to share what they know. I wonder what we'll learn next year...