Adventuring at the Fair (with numbers)

M and I went to the California State Fair yesterday and it was PERFECT. Well, almost, but in the ways it was not are far less significant in the ways that it was. So let’s go with the original “perfect” thought … although not an all caps perfect.

The weather was cool for Sacramento in mid-July, meaning it was only in the low 90s and with the delta breeze blowing versus the sweltering 100+ days we are typically enjoying. This was also our first venture to the fair on opening day and with a late afternoon start in many years. Typically we will go on a Saturday or Sunday and get there first thing, be done by the time the heat really sets in. 

For an opening day, the crowds were thin, we found a parking space in our preferred lot without having to troll for a space or facing a significant walk on blistering concrete. We had also purchased a fair pack from Costco, so rather than $34 ($10 parking, $12 each admission), we paid $29.95 for free parking, 2 admissions, and $10 in food scrip. We are people who gleefully jump off the our dubious version of clean and healthy eating in light of fair food, so we were delighted with the small savings on our planned food consumption. For this adventure, this was the only frugal, thoughtful, cost-conscious thing we did. Personal finance fail, I know. 

Last year’s fair adventure brought us a metal singing bowl. It looks like hammered brass, but the young man who sold it to us says its an assortment of different metals. It has become a treasure for M, and last year, after buying the 7.25″ medium-ish bowl, he really wanted to go back and get the larger bowl. Only when we returned to the booth 2 hours later, the large one M wanted had been sold. Whoda thunk? Apparently there are others who enjoy singing bowls. M was heartbroken.

Fast forward through the past year. In our travels, M and I have gone into any import store that might possibly sell such items. We found one boutique in Portland that carries the larger bowl he wanted, but the $1800 price tag … *faint* Needless to say we left that one in their shop, because even we are not nutty enough to drop that sort of cash for what looks like an old brass bowl. M had not giving up on it, though, and has been patiently waiting for the fair this year just to go and seek out that young man from Nepal and his wares. While it seemed like a long shot to me that he would be there, M had faith, and sure enough, he was there yesterday. He had one large singing bowl in his inventory, and it is now sitting in our living room. Total damage: $220. Making M happy: priceless.

(We will talk about the Kate Spade bag I ordered yesterday on another day.)

With that one purchase in the first 20 minutes of being at the fair, our mission was accomplished. Singing bowl located, acquired, and at a reasonable price. It had been marked $300, but for whatever reason the young man gave it to us for $220, along with an orange pillow to display it and a book to describe the markings inside it. 

The rest of our 5+ hours was spent wandering the commercial and other exhibits. Thankfully we both bought backpacks, because we acquired a few other things in our travels:

  • A multi-colored LED light box that creates small patterned red and green little lights and dances to music. Yes, we’re kind of weird like this, but we have wanted something like this for our backyard and pool area. For $50, we now have a little tiny box that makes amazing light patters off the water, concrete, and trees outside, creating a magical, star-like effect.
  • Two sets of king size sheets for $60. While I prefer a high thread count 100% cotton sheet (read: expensive), we have a set of these hotel-like sheets that came with our king size mattress/box when we bought it. They are wearing out now, from so many weekly washings, but for $30 per set, I will happily replace them in another 2 years. Maybe I will get longer life from them by rotating between the 2 sets of sheets.
  • A compact, rechargeable, super bright flashlight and second set of batteries for $55. M is a flashlight freak … there is no other description for his obsession. Smaller and brighter is always his criteria, and whether this one stays home and is an interim replacement for our backyard spotlight or goes into his running/backpacking pack or both remains to be seen. But at usual we stopped at every booth that displayed such things, and in our final sweep (getting the sheets) he decided on this particular model. What took me 2 minutes (picking white and dark blue, paying with my credit card) took him 20 minutes of comparing and considering before finally buying. 
  • Our fair food consisted of teriyaki bowls and bottles of water ($22.17) and then our new favorite junky snack of a tater tornado (thin, spiral sliced potato on a stick deep fried into potato chips) and another bottle of water for $15. With our $10 food scrip, our meal and snacking costs were $27.17. Outrageously expensive, but we expect it. 

Total cost for our evening: $442.12, of which only our fair food comes out of our entertainment bucket for this month. The $29.95 package for parking and admission was purchased last month and used June’s entertainment funds. So not bad.

We also looked at the new cars on display, including the brand new corvette stingray. If I were a frivolous car person I might have to have that, and M, being the more frugal of our partnership, might actually let me buy it. Thankfully I am a mostly practical car person, very happy with my 2013 Rav4. 

My favorite part of the fair is always the crafting and industrial arts exhibits. I do not sew, I lack the patience and the time to devote to it, but the quilts were amazing, especially those displayed in the younger people’s age range. It was not just the patterns, either; many of them had embroidery squarers stitched together with patchwork patterns. They were simply beautiful. 

They did a small fireworks show at the end of the evening, so a nice ending to a good night. And as usual we had some difficulty finding where we left the car; it always seems to be closer or farther back than we remember. I would suggest this is a symptom of getting older, but we have always had this problem when we go to large events with seas of vehicles. If we do not take note of a row marker or some stationary landmark, it takes awhile to locate the car.  We forgot yesterday, which is probably a getting older symptom, but I’m chalking it up to being excited about nice weather and hopes for a not-too-crowded experience.

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