A Guy Walks Into A Bar -Continued…

STROLLING CARICATURES IN BARS… -THE SUBJECT AT HAND-. GETTING STARTED.

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ALL WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING- the variety of venues available to do this in, tricks to help you improve your take once you have decided to give it a try, and the details of the successful methods that have worked with me and the artists that have worked with me in the past while doing this under my tutelage… SPECIFICALLY- busking creative performance entertainment (in my case caricatures) in bars.

Strolling busking is just what it sounds like and what I have described before, except you are roaming and barking at people and doing your thing without a net in large crowds of stupid people. It is “extreme busking”, “guerilla busking” or “Para-busking” because you are taking a huge risk doing it!! You are getting out there in front of God and everybody and having a blast, doing something fun and unique among other people who are having fun and still getting paid to do it! The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot tailgate party, an outdoor concert, a street development promotion, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people, etc… mostly on private property, sometimes on public, most of the time when there is SOMETHING going on, but still totally fantastic… Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere, any time and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they can also BUSK. Hows that for an incentive to do the best artwork you can??!!

Specifically this book is geared toward doing caricatures or quick sketch cartoons of people for tips but it may also be useful as a jumping off point for doing other novelty type “performances”, one on one, close up entertainment services where a creative souvenir is exchanged -including face/body painting, balloon twisting, hair wraps and henna tattoos (and FTR, I would love to hear what other types of performers it has successfully given aid to).

This manual may also be helpful to those full time gig entertainers who are already comfortable strolling in cafes and restaurants doing close up caricatures, magic, balloons, comedy, hypnosis, etc… to try to pick up extra gigs during the week. As is the case with most ingenious art forms, creativity breeds strange animals that are not easy to categorize. If this is the case of your particular act, let me say that this manual may be helpful if you A) have a minimum of props/tools that you need to perform your act and B) if your act is performed close up, one on one or smaller groups and C) you ask for an individual or group tip at the completion of the act and lastly D) if your act is appropriate and safe to perform in close quarters or large crowds of moving people on public or private property inside or out, day or night, adult or family friendly. Yup. This is a niche that covers a lot of territory, so put your thing down and give this opportunity a run for the money. I’ d love to hear how this info has been transformative to my readers. (and how it has effected your success in gathering loot)

There are definite tricks, hustles, dos and don’ts that are generally practiced by most buskers world wide. In this book I will describe in great detail how to maximize your freedom, income, time and fun while keeping safe and out of trouble in the USA! I hope you find it useful! Here goes!!

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1992. THE SUMMER OF LOVE!

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Mr. And Mrs. Pate

Mr. And Mrs. Pate!

Even though AIP was open year round, I wanted to have a summer to go work back home if possible. I had a really tough time finding work as it turned out. I called and stopped by places I had always been interested in working when I was a kid and found nothing for the first couple of weeks. I eventually found some work working at the Christmas store in the bottom of Grandpa’s Cheesebarn that is owned by the Goshinski family in Ashland near Fin Feather and Fur Outfitters (better known as the Ashland Mall). I worked with some very nice ladies but the Christmas thing really got to me.

I endured listening to Alvin and the Chipmonks’ Christmas album about 100 times a day and if it wasn’t that, it was a Disney music album (featuring It’s A Small World After All). Needless to say, I was happy to have an opportunity to draw caricatures here and there…

On my days off I visited some friends of mine that were working at Camp Mowana where I had worked the previous summer. (AIP let out too late for me to get a job there again like I had hoped- funnest job ever, BTW…) I also spent some time with a good friend of mine from high school, hanging out at the college she went to, driving out to Fowler’s woods late at night and having lots of fun but somehow managing to stay out of trouble… I booked some fairs and festivals and one of the first ones I worked at was the Perrysville Street fair.

I was set up in a pole barn off the main street in Perrysville. It was kind of a smallish fair but they had a parade and a car show so it was pretty fun. Set up about a block from where I was sitting was a pretty girl with a 1969 Ford Mustang convertible that WNCO, the local country radio station, was giving away for free to a lucky listener who signed up to win it during the summer. I wasn’t a country fan by any means, but during a slow time when I had gotten up to go look around I stopped by and signed up to win it and chatted for a minute with the DJ chick who was there with the car. Her name was Stacie Thompson. I told her she should let me draw her later, and so she did.

After a little while, as promised, Ms. Thompson came over to see what I was doing and to let me draw her there at my ‘booth’, which was a couple of the old school nylon and aluminum folding chairs, a milk crate, a jam box and some pens and paper. (I think I had tossed the easel by then) I was sitting there listening to the Depeche Mode and eating some funnel cake with my high school friend Amira, who had come with me. I offered some to Stacie and she took it.

She made it a point to tell us that she knew who Depeche Mode was and that she wasn’t in to country music at all, which I thought was interesting because you know, she was the DJ at the country station and stuff. She clued us in that she was the DJ on the weekends and that she would be on later that night and if we wanted to check her out, but she also DJ’ed at the local college station in Oberlin and that she liked punk and metal, so we talked about music for a while, then other festivals we had gone to, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Ashland, New London, Mansfield, College, this and that and the other thing… There were some awkward moments there in that first conversation to be sure, but somehow we established that A. we liked each other, and B. that I was not dating my very attractive friend and was in fact single so we exchanged numbers and made a date to talk some time later on the phone. I listened to her on the radio that night and thought that was pretty cool and that she had a very sweet voice.

The following weekend she asked me to go with her to take the NCO car to a car show at the local speedway in Mansfield. (she was going to take her dad but thankfully decided to take me instead) I met her at the station and we drove the car over together, hung out, I did a few caricatures and we talked for hours and had a blast. I kissed her there in the garage at the radio station before she went to work -and that was it! That was the first time I kissed my future wife and the future mother of my child!

I know I’m going to hear how I got it all wrong now as soon as she reads this, but that’s the gist of what I remember, lol! What a great summer!

Copyright Adam Pate 2013. All rights reserved.

Drawing Some Kids Today At a Gig…

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Had a gig in Iowa today. Very busy. Near the end of the day when the line had gone down considerably I finally got to try out my new camera. The audio is messed up but the picture quality is way better than I had hoped for.

Thought for the day: Most people were taught how a line works when they were in kindergarten or earlier. When adults crowd in line it is beyond aggravating, especially when they throw a tantrum and cause a scene when you call them on it. This is nothing short of bullying and I will not tolerate it.

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)

STROLLING CAFE BUSKING

Café busking is a little like walk by busking but on private property. Generally you set up in a corner of a bar, restaurant or outdoor mall type area after getting permission from the business/property owner and you wait for people to come up to you to get drawn. (musicians can play and hope that somebody comes up to tip them for a request, like an open mic night). This is a popular request also from the establishment owner so they may seek you out and actually offer you an hourly wage or stipend if you’re lucky- or rather if you INSIST on it…

Most of the birthday party type entertainers I know in my local area drum up about 60% of their business by cafe busking. The management pays them a low weekly rate (about a quarter of their hourly rate) plus whatever tips they can make and a free meal (free is good), to come into the establishment on a regular basis and go table to table to entertain kids. It is a commitment however. the establishment may advertise your appearances and you may leave promotional information laying around. It may be a problem if it would be difficult for you to do it every week on the same night and time. For one thing, you may be giving up some work you can charge full price for in order to honor your commitment. If that were the case, you may have to have another entertainer to cover you sometimes, and pay them what they want in order to keep the commitment to the establishment. Remember, the other entertainer does not have an agreement to work for 25% of their hourly rate for a set amount of time so after a few times of doing this it might be hard to find a make up entertainer.

The idea is to bring the walk-by busker into the establishment to add atmosphere to the room. While this certainly does add charm to the establishment, it often happens that it is at the expense of the busker as traditional barking to get people to come sit for you would be inappropriate in this situation, for what the management has in mind, so if you’re not busy then you’re stuck there in a corner of a boring bar doing nothing and you’d be stuck in that one location.

If it’s OK with the management, you might try going from table to table and asking people to come sit for you in the corner if you sit there for too long. This starts my next topic though… You might be able to dress up a little and have a drink or two and you will for sure make way better tips than you would have on the street and not have to worry about as many of the “hassles” that they go through, but it is still very difficult to keep busy and make money this way. You are at the mercy of the bar. If you haven’t played your hand right, the bar owner may also want you to give him a cut of your earnings and also require you to not go to any competing establishments which is the last thing you want. Most of the positives cross over into the next section- STROLLING!

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING, specifically in bars and restaurants. Strolling busking is just what it sounds like. YOU ARE MOBILE. The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot, an outdoor concert, a street, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people anywhere, etc… mosltly on private property, sometimes on public. Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they are very likely to get tipped well!!

(Copyright, Adam Pate 2013. All rights reserved)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (as I did tonight)

Back in the saddle again!

Felt GOOD! Wasn’t all that busy, surprisingly but I did well enough. No complaints! People were nice too. The first person I saw yelled across the bar to me because he recognized me from up at Put In Bay and came over to tell his friends to get a caricature. Yep! Jumped right in!! Took a few photos. None turned out great but Here are two that weren’t horrible. The first photo does neither the girl or the drawing justice. The flash messed it all up. (and completely washed out the other drawings I took photos of tonight) The second one is of a guy with 2 girl’s butts. The one on the left was LOVING the way I drew her pooper in the drawing. The girl on the right, not so much. It was fun and I thought the girl’s reactions were hysterical. I guess this is why the “Butt Sketch TM” guy’s picture’s are so corny and lame, lol! Who cares? Anyways, got to use my new credit card swiping thing to collect a tip tonight which was awesome! I’m really glad it has become so main stream too. Can’t imagine trying to convince someone it’s legit. I did have some dipshit ask me to show him samples before he would get a caricature as if I was at a freaking job interview. That one still creeps me out. I would just assume that anyone who doesn’t understand that I don’t keep them -I give them away- and don’t carry around samples for people like him to judge me on wouldn’t appreciate a caricature in the first place so fuck em. Anyhow, it’s late and it’s gonna be a long weekend. Have fun, be safe and try not to get arrested!

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Made a new busking sign that says I accept credit cards too! YIPPEE!!

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News Release From DelMarVa Today OCMD Via ACLU

I thought I had lost this. Posting it now, since I found it.

“Ocean City lifts unconstitutional ban on strolling caricature artist from performing on the Boardwalk

MEDIA RELEASE:
June 2, 2005

CONTACT:
Deborah A. Jeon, Managing Attorney 410-889-8550 ext. 120
Rick Griffiths, Attorney (410) 889-8550 ext. 134

Caricature artist Adam Pate will be allowed to do his lightning fast portraits of passersby on Ocean City’s Boardwalk this summer, after a letter from the ACLU of Maryland spurred the City to reverse its initial rejection of his application under an ordinance that imposes unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. Mr. Pate was told by City Solicitor Guy R. Ayers III that he was forbidden from performing on the Boardwalk because he accepts tips for the caricatures he draws. But when the issue of free speech on the Boardwalk last arose, back in 1995, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against speech that contains commercial content. ACLU managing attorney Deborah A. Jeon, who filed the 1995 case, threatened a return to court if the City did not lift the restrictions on Mr. Pate.

Ten years ago, the court ruled that there exists no real substitute for the Boardwalk as a forum for artists, said ACLU attorney Rick Griffiths, who co-drafted the letter. The First Amendment clearly protects the type of expression Mr. Pate wishes to engage in. It was in the public interest of all who visit and enjoy Ocean City’s premier venue to remove this unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction.

The current Peddlers and Solicitors ordinance of Ocean City’s Town Code imposes a year-round ban on soliciting donations on the Boardwalk. But because the Boardwalk is a traditional public forum, it should only be subject to reasonable and content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions when there is a substantial government interest in regulating protected speech. Mr. Pate performs his drawings rapidly and with creative spontaneity, which people find entertaining and educational. That he solicits tips with a notice on his drawing board does not affect the sincerity of his artistic expression. The ACLU could see no justification under the First Amendment to exclude Mr. Pate from this traditional public forum.

People around the country love my quick caricatures, and they have recommended that I go to Ocean City’s great Boardwalk, said Mr. Pate. This is the first time I’ve ever had any trouble doing my pictures in public places. I have a right to perform, and now Maryland beachgoers can have fun watching me this summer.

The current ordinance is very similar to an Ocean City ordinance ruled unconstitutional in the ACLU of Maryland’s 1995 case, Markowitz v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City. In his ringing defense of free speech rights in that case, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis called the ordinance vastly overbroad and said courts have allowed government to restrict free speech only when necessary to protect the public safety of health. The ACLU had brought suit on behalf of a member of the Libertarian Party who wanted to collect signatures on the Boardwalk, along with a puppeteer and a juggler who regularly performed on the Boardwalk.

City Solicitor Ayres confirmed in a May 26 letter to the ACLU of Maryland that Mr. Pate will be allowed to perform on the Boardwalk, saying that his proposed activity was not prohibited by the City ordinance after all.”

Ashland County Fair- Day 2

The second day of the ACF was Seniors day (1991- fresh outta high school). As I said, there were old people everywhere in their walkers and rascal scooters. Hanging out talking and just doing their old people thing. An old lady happened to come up to me, sit down and talk for a while. Ya know, like they do… I’m a nice kid so I let her sit there and talk. She told me all about her grand kids, her bridge partners and how she had just lost her husband, etc… We probably talked for 15 minutes or more before she asked for a caricature.

She had asked me if I ever had a hard time drawing wrinkles and I told her I didn’t know because this was the first time I had really done them for money, and I’d never had to draw them before. I drew lots of wrinkles on her picture while I talked to her. She was such a nice lady and we were just talk, talk, talking away and I was just draw, draw, drawing them wrinkles… In jaggy, black, inky, sharpie marker lines. Tons of em. I wanted to get them just right! After I was finished, I gave her her drawing and she handed me $5 and said thank you. She looked at it for about a full minute without saying a thing. Then walked away silently and as she turned the corner to go behind one of the craft barns, I saw her wrinkle up her face and wipe some tears away. I felt horrible and vowed to be much much more careful the next time I had to draw some wrinkles, despite my lack of skill. That one probably left a bruise… Later on a friend of hers came over and chewed me out for drawing a bad picture of her.

The next wrinkly person I drew probably looked like they were 25.

All rights reserved on all content. Copyright, Adam Pate 2013

A Guy Walks Into a Bar- (Continued…)

(Walk By Busking Continued)
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT OPERATIONAL SECURITY

There are several other things to be considered when setting up your novelty entertainment busking set up in the street to attract walk by business… The street is less than ideal in the vulnerability department. You will want to set up near someplace that has a street, shop or ATM camera and logistically makes sense for your needs. (i.e. Restroom, water, food, parking, security, phone, loading-unloading, making a quick exit, visibility, clear view of your surroundings, etc…) If you have a tip bucket or some kind of contraption to collect money, it will likely get pilfered or stolen outright at some point. Kids and thugs have many, many ways to get your goodies if they want them. (More on this later) For a number of reasons, I prefer to open my hand to collect tips and put the money directly into my pocket. (I have a VERY DEEP pocket I have sewn into my pants to prevent pickpocketing- which I will also go over later…) Keep in mind that you will also be encumbered by your props, easel, signs, jacket, book bag, dog, etc… Whatever you have with you. Should you have to get up to use the restroom, get a drink or whathaveyou you will need to bring all of your things along with you, lock them up, stash them somewhere, have somebody else watch them for you or test your faith in humanity by leaving it alone for a few minutes. This is something to consider if you are vacillating about whether to work on public or private property.

Physical abuse may also be something to seriously give consideration to if you are a woman or are a man of slight build. (or even if you are a giant stud muffin like myself, who might be hassled because they are big and might pose a challenge to a punk kid looking to start a fight with somebody- yes, it happens.) I suggest ANYONE who busks in a walk by environment to carry pepper spray at the very least. A whistle and/or a knife are good too. A flashlight or a small stick is also an excellent idea for protection and do not draw attention Learn how to use these tools for defense along with basic moves to throw off the hands of an attacker in close quarters, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with a small stick, marker, pencil, keychain, etc… I wouldn’t bring a gun with me but that is just me. Personally, if I thought I would need a gun where I was going, I might reconsider my priorities.

You might consider having a few cache spots too. Someplace you can keep money or bring periodic drops to that is secure so you don’t have to walk around with a lot of money in your pocket all day. That way if you DO get robbed, you won’t be out everything you made the entire day. If you work long days and have a lot of $1 bills taking up room in your pocket, you can free up some space by ditching the wad and be more comfortable too. The first cache spot to consider is where you first put the money when it is given to you. Your POCKET.

You might keep a dummy pocket so if you are asked to give an assailant your money you can pull out everything from a partially full pocket, meanwhile you have several other partially full pockets that they don’t know about, or maybe stash your larger bills ($20, $50, $100’s) in a pocket you don’t use very often. When you have a lot of money in a wad in your pocket, you would be surprised how easy it is to accidentally pull out more money than you intended and accidentally drop it. Keep your bigger bills in a pocket (sock, shoe, bra, etc…) you are not likely to use. Better you drop a $1 looking for change than a $50. You’ll find that shallow, wide pockets easily bunch up on you and it is easy for that bunching movement to push some bills up and out also. I like to use only pockets on one side of my body to store cash. I am very comfortable with people watching me work from over my shoulder or standing on one side of me but if someone is standing on the side I put my money into I am very aware of them being there. I jiggle around subtly so that if they have slipped a hand into my pocket they cannot rely on getting it back out without being noticed. Still it is best to keep honest people honest and try to put yourself in a position within your environment where there is a wall, a table, a chair, etc… something on that side so you don’t have to worry about anyone being over there to begin with. Be weary of people bumping into you also. Classic pickpocket trick… The special pocket I have sewn into my work pants is a tube that goes down to my knee and I can push money way, way down there and make a big fat wad and nobody can see it! it is wide at the bottom and very narrow at the top so that it is very difficult to get a hand in there and even harder to get it out. Yes it is harder to get the money out to stash it but I would generally do that somewhere private.

Something to consider is that a mugger or a pickpocket will stealthily check you out for a while before making a move and you WILL NOT know they’re there. While you are busy working and doing your thing all of the people you see and meet will become a blur, but you will stick out like a sore thumb to them. If there is a thief around they WILL notice you and all of the loot you’re putting into your pocket. The best defense against them is to simply go on about your business being aware of your surroundings and making it hard for them to find a vulnerable point at which to take advantage of you. They will be watching you yes, but they will also be noticing the steps you are taking to protect yourself, that you are conscious of your surroundings and see that you smarter than the average bear. By simply taking the simple precautions mentioned above, (that will quickly become second nature for you) they will most likely determine that their chances of success is so low that it will not be worth it to attempt anything and they will likely just move on leaving you none the wiser.

(FYI- This might be a good time to point out that I THINK I have been pick pocketed twice and I have never been robbed or beat up in the 20 years I have been busking. (knock on wood!))

A cache/hiding spot in your car is a wise idea too, maybe a small, secret spot behind a rock in a parking garage? An excellent suggestion if it’s possible is to make a friend nearby. A friendly business owner or employee who you can visit to deter a creeper for instance, if there is somebody who makes you nervous. This last bit is a great idea as that person can keep an eye on you, scout the creeper for you over your shoulder while you talk, call the cops if needed and may even let you leave your cache with them. You can keep a weapon of some sort in your cache spots too. A stick in your pocket for instance… or some mace.

One of the prerequisites of busking almost unanimously in any environment is that you can’t have anything permanently set up and must move somewhere else if asked to by a nearby shopkeeper or cop. Especially if you are blocking traffic on the sidewalk, street or business front where you are set up. This means you have to load all of your stuff in to begin and out at the end of the day which can also be a pain but a lot of vendors do this. There is no end to the creativity used to solve the problem of moving props here and there! (Again, I will describe my cart in a later chapter.)

Another problem to inspire creativity is called “dipping”. Dipping is when it LOOKS like somebody is putting their hand in to give you a tip but sneaks something out instead. Any number of ingenius contraptions can be invented to ensure that earnings go in and not out of your bucket, bottle, jar or whatever. It is a fact that you will be more likely to be targeted for a crime since you (more than likely would be alone,) would be in the same general place at the same times and even park your car in the same place every day. Buskers are unfortunately easy prey for muggers… That’s not to say that they often get mugged… Good old fashioned street smarts and following your gut is extremely underrated.

Yes, the walk by method definitely has it’s disadvantages and leaves you vulnerable if you are on public property, but not just to muggers. You may be hassled by homeless people, panhandlers, drunks, cops, mother nature, parking restrictions, lighting problems and just general harassment from passers by and business owners. Not to mention the hood rats that may come talk your ear off because there’s nothing better to do than to watch you work. (They’re cute at first but they will turn on you as soon as you stop paying attention to them then they can become troublesome…) Now that you’re all scared…

Next up… Circle Busking.

(All content belongs to Adam Pate. Copyright 2013)

Straight Outta High School!

ASHLAND COUNTY FAIR

During my last year of HS, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh sent some people to our HS to recruit. I visited their campus in the summer at an overnight orientation, met some cool kids (and perdy girls…) and had a blast. Since I really wasn’t prepared for doing the SAT’s or ACT’s and was accepted, I took the bait and went to AIP after the summer of 1991. Which I spent working at Camp Mowana in Mansfield (One of my favorite jobs to this day but I’m skipping over it since it had nearly nothing to do with caricatures.)

The AIP semester started late in the fall so I was around when Ashland High School started up again. It felt weird to be out wandering around aimlessly some days when I had always been in school at this time of year and many of my friends still had to go to class. I had money from graduation and my summer job but I currently had no job, no classes, no worries- and my whole life ahead of me! Life was good and it seemed like I must have been experiencing the meaning of the word FREEDOM!

About a month after Mowana closed and schools were back in session, the Ashland County Fair happened. It was only about 60 degrees at the coldest but little did I know you could actually get hypothermia at that temperature because sitting in one place makes you very, very cold! I found myself shivering every night of it and on the last night I damn near shook my chair apart while I sat there in the buzzing mercury lights under a blanket!

I had bought a lightweight French easel from Jerry’s Artorama that pretty much fell apart right away. The fair board put me on a corner with lots of traffic and I did pretty well considering I was selling my drawings for only $2. I made my first signs with cardboard and the sharpie markers I drew with back then. I learned the hard way how to write “CARICATURES” so that it all fit on a sign correctly. This is harder than it seems and I must have ruined 4 sheets of posterboard trying to get it right that first day. I duct taped the sign to my rickety easel. Then I re-taped it. Then I taped the easel together by using the sign. Then I taped it again when it fell apart again. Then I had to make a new sign because the other one blew off and ripped… Next thing you know the whole contraption looked like a total catastrophe! What a piece of crap!

My mother had talked me into drawing at the fair and I was pretty nervous. She had even given me the money to pay the vendor fee at the fair. It sure beat my first job working at Hawkins Market as a bagger that’s for sure!

Charlie Daniels played the Ashland County Fair that year. Anything by Garth Brooks, Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” and Alabama’s “Mountain Music” were really big too. I was not a fan of country music back then but I had to listen to it day in and day out and actually started to like it a little. (Shhhh, don’t tell anybody!!!) There was a pavilion across the walkway from me where they had country bands, banjo music and barbershop quartets. When it rained, it would be packed full of people (and myself- I didn’t have a tent!) It was loud and the music sucked, but I saw how folks doing a similar thing to what I was doing made their living entertaining people at fairs and afterwards a few of them would come over and get a caricature from me and talk a little shop and tell me about how they do things at other fairs and festivals and some of the cool things they’ve seen.

The weirdest thing to me was being at the fair early and having lots of cash to buy anything I wanted! I hadn’t gotten there that early or been there all day and actually gotten to see the agricultural stuff since I was a kid and went there with the pre school group. I still had a twinge of guilt for not being in school, so it was quite an awakening to see how the ‘Carnys’ lived, and to realize I WAS ONE OF THEM, HA HA!!

I got into the fair for free and could go anywhere I wanted. I had donuts for breakfast, I had coffee every morning, and as many hot dogs or whatever I wanted for lunch and French fries for dinner! I saw sheep being sheered, cows being exercised, pigs running around in their racing stables, no lines for games or rides and I saw the “dumb kids” from school working at them. I made friends with them and some of the other vendors and we bartered for goodies. I saw old people speed-walking around the grounds, I saw fat people on Rascal Scooters going into the pole barns early to collect bucketfuls of free stuff, I saw old people who have a special day where they can go and walk really slow and know everybody and sit and talk all day without all the noisy, annoying kids there to bug them, I saw days where little kids came and took over the place like a rowdy gang of kittens, I saw days when all the 4H kids took over and it was very business like and serious (and surprisingly interesting) I saw days when the displays changed in the craft barns, all the old ladies would come put their best baked goods out, their best knitting up and their finest garden treasures out for everyone in the county to see. I saw some quite fascinating displays from the Ag kids at the HS. One of them was a dissected cow eyeball. (I saw a kid get in the way of a wayward fishhook and it got stuck in his eyeball when I was a kid. Gahhhhbrrrrrelcht!!! ….AH!!!!! Never have gotten rid of that image in my head, even after all these years…) When the days were over I saw dirty, creepy carny ride people drinking beer and making out with sluts from my HS behind the animal barns. I saw hard working, rough looking gypsy people go to their trailers for the night and I saw things the health department would probably frown upon -in just about every direction.

I have seen the Ashland County Fairgrounds almost completely empty. It was sad but it felt kinda cool at the same time. It was like peeking behind the curtain and seeing that the wizard is just some little dork like me. I was officially a carny and it was kinda awesome.