Take eight teenagers to the York Fair for one hour, set them free and what do you get?
Find out below as members of the York Daily Record/Sunday News’ Teen Takeover staff tell you their take on the annual institution.
Overcast sky doesn’t deter fairgoers
You might think torrential downpours, muddy walkways and cloud-studded skies would keep people from going outside. But when it comes to the oldest fair in the country, the crowds come rain or shine.
One woman, tucked comfortably in her wheelchair, plowed through hay and puddles to witness her grandchildren ride a coaster. Her beaming smile lit up the darkened air as she watched them ride, laughing all the way.
Kids strolled the aisles of cotton candy, Lola’s Luscious Lemonade, Bricker’s Famous French Fries and Kettle Korn decked out in Hollister or American Eagle clothing as they chomped on their hot dogs or sucked their ICEE cups dry of blue raspberry slushie.
A wave of teens sauntered by, each wearing attire of their favorite college football team: Hokies from Virginia Tech, Nittany Lion pride and several Florida States.
The bingo announcer’s booming voice echoed through the stands like a racquetball. “Ball 5, ball 6, ball 7,” he yelled, as the players tossed.
The fair also exhibits some of the weirdest and wildest foods around. How about some deep-fried ice cream? Mmm, with honey spewing from underneath? Cotton candy flavors like chocolate and lime stuck to the faces of brave children tasting the unique flavors.
A tent devoted entirely to Democratic candidates, both national and local, was adorned with “Obama ’08” banners displaying the presidential candidate’s picture. Several campaigners stood guard behind the tables of pins and pens, anxious to talk with anyone who would listen.
“It’s your future,” said Mary Anne Bacas, of why it is so vital for everyone, especially teens, to exercise their right to vote in this election.
Turkeys and roosters crowed in unison from their cages. Their cherry-red wattles and combs shook with each screech, as if to say “Let me out of here!”
“Mommy, what’s that thing on his head?” a little boy asked, his index finger extended to a turkey’s wattle. The mother stared intently at the gobbling bird, just as perplexed as her son. “I don’t know sweetie. Let’s go.”
Outside, friends met up after their half-day off from school. They glided past one another with a wispy slide of the hand that has become this generation’s handshake. Girls wore faux gold chains with their names in fancy cursive script while boys wore jeans in which they could hide a cooler.
Ahh, nowhere else but York . . .
— By ALEX PETERSON, Central York High School
Vegetarian struggles to find health food
Ah, grease. Powdered sugar. Fried dough. Such are the concoctions of the York Fair. I explored rows upon rows of stands selling funnel cake, ice cream, funnel cake and ice cream . . . I was on a quest to find any sign of healthy, vegetarian food.
I passed a pumpkin funnel cake stand. Although pumpkin counts as a vegetable, I did not imagine that mixing it into a paste, cooking it in a vat of hot oil and dumping powdered sugar on top counted as one of my “five a day.”
And those French fries? Not a chance.
I did have several close calls. I saw a sign labeled, “Vegetable Co.” and my heart jumped. Then I came closer and saw fried onion and zucchini rings. Another time I saw a sign advertising salad. Really? At the York Fair? Then I saw a building was blocking the entire sign: “Taco Salad.”
Well, I tried.
Just as I was ready to give up — success! I found a Subway in a building, then discovered the York Fair cafeteria across the path. Curious, I walked inside. The sign in the dark room advertised healthy choices such as fruit salad and green beans. I looked around. There were three people in the huge room. The empty tables and chairs were like the punch line in “Supersize Me.”
There is healthy food at the York Fair, if anyone is interested. But sometimes you have to embrace the cholesterol and fat and sample the Fair fare.
— By LAURA DZWONCZYK, Susquehannock High School
Ferris Wheel holds many stories
All right, kiddies, it’s time for your daily math lesson.
See that big circle thing that looks over all of the York Fair? Oh, stop looking around all confused — it’s just the Ferris wheel.
OK, well, as I’m sure you know, the carnival that comes to York travels all around. That means tons of people have sat their butts on every single ride. The Ferris wheel alone has 20 gondolas. Think about how many people sit in those seats every day.
Yeah, I don’t feel like cranking out the calculator either.
It’s hard to fathom, perhaps. You’ve never even seen these people, much less care about them. But seriously, think about it. Who’s sat on those Ferris wheel seats, able to snatch a smidgen of privacy at the strange insanity that is the fair?
Kids on the verge of throwing up from too many fried Oreos, a teenager smoking a cigarette, an adult who really has much better things to worry about (like that canceled Danity Kane concert . . . dang!).
But, then again, for all you know, it could have been the first time a baby realized how big the world really is, the place where a man proposed to the love of his life, a college-bound student’s one last taste of childhood.
So what’s the point of all of this? I suppose, in a way, as bizarre as the fair can be, it connects us as Americans. It’s a part of our culture that has endured for years and years (at least in York anyway), and to know that tons of other fellow Americans are participating in that is kind of cool. It brings us away from focusing solely on our own lives and thinking about others.
Never thought you could get that much out of the fair, huh? Sorry for the philosophy lesson.
— By ARIEL SIEGELMAN, York Suburban Senior High School
Elephant Ears aren’t all that exotic
While I usually ignore the imploring voices of carnival game workers at the York Fair, I decided to try talking to them this time.
First, I met James, a 19-year-old who has worked with a carnival game for six months. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, James does not like his job and wants to join the Marines.
Then I talked to Michael Royer, who has judged people’s weights, ages, and birthday month for 15 years. He said he enjoys traveling to carnivals and even told me some of his secrets of his game.
Weight is the hardest thing to judge, he said, although he estimated that he accurately predicts people’s weight 80 percent of the time. While he judges age by looking at your eyes, he guesses your birthday month based on the color of your eyes. Here is a man who actually enjoys his job — studying people and interacting with them.
Not only did I learn more about the backgrounds of carnival workers, I also discovered what elephant ears are.
My curiosity was piqued when I spotted a sign advertising them. I asked the man working at the stand what they were. His reply was “elephant ears are basically fried dough.”
I was a little disappointed.
I expected some exotic meat or a bizarre concoction. Instead, they’re a typical Pennsylvania Dutch food. While it wasn’t what I expected, the answer embodied the character of York. It may not be an exotic place, but its familiar aspects, like food, distinguish our county from the rest of the state.
— By MARIA STAYER, York Suburban Senior High School
Don’t judge a carnie by his job
When people think of a carnival or fair, they probably think of carnies.
The term “carnie” doesn’t have a good connotation.
The stereotype is that people who run away and join a carnival and usually are a little weird or “out there.”
The truth is, while some carnies might fit this stereotype, many are ordinary people. They don’t plan on spending the rest of their lives traveling with the carnival (or fair).
Anthony, is a 21-year-old who travels with his pop-the-balloon-and-win-a-prize stand.
He got involved because a long-time friend’s mother needed help.
Originally from Lakewood, N.J., Anthony has been a carnie for about five years, but he doesn’t plan on making a career of it. He wants to become a landscaper, after his carnival life is over.
He said this year was the first time he has been to the York Fair and he thinks it’s a livelier event than others he’s seen.
“Sometimes we had to (borrow) money from our bosses to eat that night,” he said.
— By AMBER ROUTSON, Spring Grove Area Senior High School
Plenty of gold chains, hoodies on student day
Tuesday was student day at the York Fair. That meant that wherever you were, were kids. Kids shouting, screaming, talking, walking, shouting.
Lights. Action. Cameras flashing over happy faces.
Guys with long hair and big dreams and girls with shaggy hair and big dreams and a whole lot of hoodies, chains, classic-rock references and guitars crowded around the rock band stand, where you could get up on stage and sing your heart out to Nirvana. Or at the ZZ Top concert. Where parents watched with nostalgia the teens watching like ZZ Top was the newest high-adrenaline band.
Chickens and rabbits, country references, freak shows, carnival rides tilting dangerously. Shops selling Led Zeppelin sweatshirts, hot chicken, French fries and games. Adults eating. Kids laughing. And lots of people on sugar highs.
— ANGELAMARIE FLYNN, Agora Cyber Charter School
Fair games pricey
When you walk into the York Fair, what do you see?
People, games, food, rides… Most kids are interested in the games. Fishing, throwing balls, tossing darts — who wouldn’t want to do that? I mean, you can win some pretty amazing prizes: Fish, guitars, stuffed animals.
Most parents deny the children a try, saying, “It costs too much.”
So many games to choose from and so little time.
— By ALICIA MILLER, West York Area Middle School
For more news about the York Fair, visit www.yorkblog.com/fair