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NPR Road Trips: Fairs and Festivals

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NPR Road Trips: Fairs and Festivals

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Product Review (submitted on August 12, 2012):

My family and I are avid fans of fairs and festivals. We like to wander around and experience the hullabaloo of all of the people, the noises of the midway, the incessant sales pitches of the guys trying to sell replacement windows or guttering and, of course, the animals.

We just attended the Indiana State fair last weekend and spent an astounding 13 hours wandering around the giant circle of the fair (it is built around a one mile dirt track) seeing everything from Star Wars Stormtroopers to a petting zoo filled with week-old calves to a giant carving made of cheese (still being carved as we watched!). I learned about $261,000 John Deere Tractors, heard an acoustic blues band, bought a wallet and saw a clown marching band performance - all before we hit the midway!

So, when I found this little audiobook of stories collected from NPR over the years about fairs and festivals I knew this was right up my alley. There are 18 little stories here that originally broadcast on the air from 1999 to 2011. Most are two to five minutes long, the longest being a little over ten minutes.

Fairs and festivals in Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Tennessee, New York, Alaska, West Virginia and more are discussed. Garrison Keillor leads off with a philosophic look at fairs and why we love them and why were are in such a hurry to get out of there when you have seen enough for one day. And, of course, he discusses the phenomenon of "food on a stick."

Other topics include the sounds of the fair, displays of various and odd collections, a "husband-calling" contest, a cornbread festival, a music festival, a butter carver and a wood chopping festival. There are stories about the other side of the fair as well. We learn about the freak show, how to make the perfect carnival pitch, how to get racing pigs to race and the story behind some the folks that make the glorious fair food.

As with all compilations, some entries are better than others, but even the weaker ones were strong in this collection.