Catching the Other Side of Door County

There is something liberating about being at a fair. There are no expectations and no rules. People let their guard down, blow their money on cheap prizes, break their diets and go on rides designed to make them throw up.

The annual Door County Fair in Sturgeon Bay took place August 6 – 10 this year and offered plenty of diversions for those in need of some down time and funnel cake.

The food is half the reason to go to the fair, whether you are versed in the various items to put in a deep fryer (really, anything goes) or whether you are trying cheese curds for the first time. I’m not sure if the person who invented the deep fryer loved or hated people. Looking at the powdered-sugared mass of funnel cake in front of me, I felt simultaneous revulsion and attraction. I took a bite, and the artery-clogging goodness flooded my mouth, chasing all thoughts of health out of my head. There were many similar treats at the fair. The aroma of deep fried cheese on a stick, pizza, elephant ears and cotton candy wafted from food stands, mixed with smoke and dust, creating that signature ‘fair scent.’

There were, of course, the usual rides and games, including classics like the Tilt-a-Whirl and bumper cars, as well as new rides like the very shady-looking ‘Hi Roller’ that flipped people upside-down, around and basically slammed them in every direction except up. Carnival workers called to those passing, hawking their games. An especially amusing one to watch was the ladder climb. An innocent looking ladder was hung at a slight angle, and the goal was to climb to the end and ring the bell. Unfortunately, physics made this a difficult task, and I did not witness anybody succeed during the 45 minutes or so that my friends and I rested and watched people try their luck.

There was also live music from Door County musicians in the tent. Unfortunately, Little Marsh Overflow, the band that I was hoping to see, had technical problems and was unable to perform on the night I attended.

As I walked away from the fair grounds at the end of the night, a stale smell of grease lingering on my clothes and powdered sugar under my fingernails, I felt nasty, yes, but also like I had experienced a side of Door County I had never seen before and had fun doing it.