Is there anything more American than eating fried food on a stick, losing a few rounds of a rigged game, and taking a spin on the Ferris wheel? For more than a century, kids and grown-ups alike have dedicated many a sunny weekend to enjoy all that life has to offer in a few miles of fairgrounds—and it’s a good bet you’re going to follow suit at some point this summer.
To ensure that you make the most of your summer fair experience, we’ve outlined a few things to steer clear of and a few rules of thumb to keep in mind. So keep this guide handy as you trek through booths of greasy food and rows of Tilt-a-Whirls. And for more on on these wonderful, age-old American institutions, check out these 40 Crazy Facts About Summer Fairs.
Make fun of the employees and performers
This is the cardinal rule. You never want to tease or make fun of a carnival worker. For starters, you’ll probably want to not refer to them as “carnies.” This derogatory term only incites negativity, and reinforces unwarranted stigma—the most common of which is that they’re carnival workers are nothing more than a bunch of tattooed older men with criminal pasts. (As it turns out, your mistrust is completely unwarranted. Most fair workers have been in the business for generations, and those who haven’t will need to pass a thorough background check before making the cut.) And for more on the balmy season, check out these 30 Best Things about Summer.
Ride on totally sketchy looking rides
While it is true that each ride is checked carefully before every fair, there are still reported deaths at the hands of these rusty beasts every year. In fact, since 2010, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that at least 22 people have died on carnival rides, while thousands of others have reported minor injuries. A good rule of thumb is to use common sense; if the ride appears rusty and you’re one of the only people in line, don’t ride it. If you’re looking for a certifiably safe ride, check out these 20 Most Terrifying Roller Coasters in America.
Choose a ride manned by an inexperienced attendant
Similar to steering clear of seemingly unsafe carnival rides, avoiding carnival rides manned by disgruntled 16-year-olds with a lackadaisical approach to your safety is probably for the best. According to the U.S. Product Safety Commission, ride attendants can be blamed for nearly all ride-related accidents at fairs. If the attendant does not come by and check every passenger’s safety harness or seatbelt—or if they’re is too busy looking at their phone to pay attention—get off the ride immediately.
Stay for the local cover band
Ah, the fair season. Finally, a time when shining local talent can have their shot in the limelight…or their chance at ruining a seemingly idyllic day at the fair. While it’s understandable to catch a few minutes of the local act while eating your next fried treat, it’s probably not a great idea to make these acts a major pitstop on your route to fun at the fair. For more on why you may want to wait until the bands reach sophomore status, just check out the 30 Worst First Names for Your Favorite Bands.
Booze it up
Don’t get sloshed at your local fair. Not only is it dangerous to be intoxicated under the searing heat of the sun, you could also land yourself in jail for public intoxication. Most county and state fairs have their own security personnel, along with local police officers, who keep an eye out for any drunk or disorderly fair-goers. Most fairs don’t allow you to bring your own alcohol—this policy, along with steep prices, should be enough incentive to stay sober. For more summer health mistakes, check out these 15 Biggest Health Mistakes People Make in Summer.
Try your hand at any games
Yes, you probably already guessed it—these games are rigged. Not only are these games designed to take your money, they are a guaranteed way to take all of your money. The only games that you really have a chance at beating are Balloon Darts (throw hard), Milk Bottle Toss (aim at the bottom of the bottle, not the top), and the Water Gun Game (line up your shot early).
Pet the animals
Well, to clarify, you can pet any animal you’d like—just ask for the owner’s permission first. Most animals at the fairgrounds are not tame pets; they are full-grown farm animals with an important purpose to serve. Therefore, they may bite or kick, or do any number of unexpected things at your expense. Furthermore, many owners will not want to engage their animals in any distractions before showing them at the county fair.
Also, numerous outbreaks of diseases like E. coli and Salmonella have been linked to animals at fairs all across the country. Young children are often those affected the most, as they can’t seem to resist a trip to the petting zoo.
Eat your weight in fried Oreos
Newsflash: fried food is bad for you. In fact, the funnel cake, the most standard of fair fare, packs 760 calories into one plate of sugary delight. If you’re still looking to indulge, just stick to one fried essential, like a fried Oreo.
Perhaps the rudest thing you can do at an outdoor event is subject everyone else to your nasty habit. It seems as though local and state fair organizations are beginning to feel the same way, as many fairgrounds all across the country are only leaving smokers with a small patch of grass to puff one out between carnival rides.
Bring your dog
Sorry, pet lovers. Most fairgrounds do not allow pets unless they are a service animal of some kind. If you’re looking for a way to bring your pup along for the festivities, you can find specific festivals and fairs—like the Aloha Pet Festival, in Honolulu, or West Fest, in Chicago—that will cater to your furry friend.
Forget to take note of where you parked
After a long, hot day in the summer sun, there’s no worse feeling than losing your car in a sea of flat grass and hundreds of cars that look exactly the same. To avoid an end-of-the-day meltdown, take photos of any nearby landmarks or row numbers. If you want to ensure that you never lose your car again, get something like the TrackR Bravo ($89.99; thetrackr.com). Along with an app, it allows you to track your car through any Apple or Android device.
Dramamine: for that moment after the fourth spinning ride when you realize you’re not 13 anymore. Don’t be that 40-something hurling into a trash can at noon on a Sunday. Take a dose 30 minutes before embarking on the spinning strawberries, and then every four to six hours afterward, if you’re a true ride warrior.
Get there late
If you’re a fan of fairs, but the thought of hundreds of small children screaming and running around doesn’t appeal to you, get there early. Not only will you miss most of the kiddie chaos, you’ll get the first go at great food—and optimal parking.
Enter without a plan of action
It’s always wise to arm yourself with a plan of action before arriving at the events, especially because they promise to be overcrowded and hyper-stimulating. For example, if you’re headed to a themed fair or festival, you might want to make sure you leave that event knowing exactly what makes it such particularly unforgettable, unique experience.
Forget to bring cash
Many fairs have a special kind of novelty that can make us feel like we’re stepping back in time. Unfortunately, the drawback to this kind of vintage fun means that your debit card can only get you so far. In order to get the most out of your fair experience, bring cash.
If you’re strutting through the fair in high heels, there’s a good chance that you’ve never been to one of these things before. Fairs are normally muddy and grassy—two elements that heels, particularly designer ones, are not equipped for. Ditch the stilettos and opt for comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Pack a suitcase
Pack light. Most fairs and festivals keep a long list of items that aren’t allowed inside, like any outside food, beverages, firearms (duh), and other items, like pepper spray, that can inflict bodily harm. Instead, pack a fanny pack and fill it with essentials, like bandages and power bars.
Spend the whole day
Yes, we know that there are so many exciting things to eat…and eat…and eat at your local fair. There’s a reason why most fairs are open multiple days—because spending more than a few hours in the beating down sun will only exhaust you.
Rock the carts on the Ferris wheel
If you’re over the age of 12, this shouldn’t even be something on your mind. Just as a reminder, you, helpless human, are hundreds of feet in the air with only a thin sheet of metal between yourself and the pavement. If not for yourself, remain still for the others on the ride who may not be as brave.
Forget to wash your hands
We shouldn’t have to remind you of this fact, but any place where hundreds of people are sweating and eating in close proximity is going to be infested with germs. Add a few farm animals to that equation and you should really, really be washing your hands after every bathroom break and before any food enters your lips. It may even be a good idea to bring your own sanitizer, just in case the bustling fair bathrooms run out of hand soap.
According to the Mayo Clinic, washing your hands thoroughly is especially important if porta potties are involved. These fairground favorites are filled with germs—germs that can even turn into diseases like Salmonella, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. Though these diseases seem scary, your immune system is built to safeguard you from outside bacteria. Just make sure that you’re washing your hands. For some summer insanity, check out these 20 Crazy Summer Camps That Actually Exist.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!